How are leg pain and spine conditions related?

Many patients with a spine condition in the lumbar (lower) spine may experience leg pain that originates in the hips and buttocks and extends down the leg and into the foot. This is a common symptom of many lower spine conditions like a herniated disc or spinal arthritis.

Associating leg pain with a condition in the lower back may not be your first instinct, but because of the way our central nervous system works they can be related. In order to best understand the possible connection between leg pain and the spine, it is helpful to better understand the anatomy of spine and the surrounding central nervous system.

The central nervous system is composed of the spinal cord and the brain, with the peripheral nervous system extending out to the rest of the body to facilitate movement and sensation. The largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve, runs from the lower back and through both legs. When this nerve becomes compressed in the lower back due to a spine condition, patients will often experience severe leg pain, tingling or numbness. In other cases, the spinal cord can become compressed, causing radiating pain and symptoms as well.

Possible causes of leg pain

Often, leg pain is caused by injury to the leg itself. Trauma, infection and other ailments can cause patients to experience severe pain that is not directly related to the spine. However, there are a number of spinal conditions that can cause leg pain as well. A few of these include:

  • Facet disease. As the cartilage that surrounds the fact joint deteriorates, patients may develop related conditions, such as enlarged ligaments, which may irritate or compress the spinal cord or surrounding nerve roots.
  • Sciatica. Symptoms related to compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve is referred to as sciatica.
  • Bone spurs. Smooth growths on top of the natural bone that may compress surrounding elements of the spinal column.
  • Degenerative disc disease. A collapsed, herniated or bulging disc can cause painful compression that results in leg pain.

If you are experiencing leg pain that is radiating from your lower back to your leg, you should consult your physician to determine the source of your pain. Leg pain related to a spine condition can often be treated with a course of conservative options like medication, physical therapy or spinal injections.

Treatment for leg pain caused by a spine condition

If you have been diagnosed with a spine condition that is causing you to experience radiating pain down your leg and weeks and months of conservative treatment have not brought relief, you may be recommended to undergo spine surgery to treat your condition. We encourage you to research all of your surgical treatment options before deciding on the right procedure for your needs.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, we have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about our minimally invasive outpatient procedures and take the first step toward recapturing your life from chronic pain.

To help you find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures, we are happy to offer a no-cost MRI or CT scan review.*