What is back pain with leg symptoms?
Back pain with leg symptoms means that your back pain is also associated with pain, abnormal feeling, numbness, or weakness of your legs or feet. This could indicate that there is pinching or pressure on a nerve in your lumbar spine. Back pain can come from several different structures in the lower back, including the lumbar spine bones or joints, discs, muscles, or nerves. The pain could be due to causes including but not limited to lumbar radiculitis, lumbar radiculopathy, or lumbar spinal stenosis.
Where does it hurt? What can you not do?
Back pain can be associated with pain in the lower back, buttock, and sometimes can also include the legs and feet. Typically, when the pain is acute, it is best to avoid activities that worsen the back pain and leg symptoms, which might include heavy lifting, running or jarring sports activities, prolonged sitting or standing.
When to seek immediate medical attention?
In rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem. Seek immediate care if your back pain is associated with new bowel or bladder symptoms (such as difficulty going or inability to control urine or bowel movements), or follows a fall or trauma. Contact your doctor if you have back pain that worsens at night, is associated with leg pain, weakness, or numbness, unexplained weight loss, fever, or abdominal pain.
What can you do?
We recommend that you seek medical attention if you have back pain with leg symptoms. Over the counter pain relievers, plasters, heat, or cold packs may help relieve your pain. Bed rest is usually not recommended for most cases. Try to be aware of the postures, positions, and activities that worsen the pain and avoid them. Light activity, such as walking and activities of daily living, is usually ok.
What can we do to help you?
Your doctor with perform a thorough history and exam. Sometimes, your doctor may order x-rays or MRI of the lumbar spine. Sometimes an electrodiagnostic test called electromyography/nerve conduction study is performed to determine which nerve root is affected or if there is another cause for the leg symptoms.
Physical therapy and an appropriate home-based exercise program is an important part of back pain treatment. A physical therapist may offer treatments such as muscle release, ultrasound, heat, or electrical stimulation to your back muscles and soft tissues to reduce pain. As pain improves, the therapist will teach you specific exercises that will stabilize your back and core and improve your posture.
These exercises will help prevent the back pain from occurring again in the future. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medications for temporary use if over the counter medications are not helping.
If the usual treatments do not relieve your pain, your doctor may recommend an injection of cortisone, an anti-inflammatory medication, under X-ray guidance into the space around a spinal nerve. A corticosteroid injection helps decrease inflammation around the nerve roots, and the pain relief may last several months. If you have unrelenting back pain associated with severe leg symptoms, progressive muscle weakness, or other neurological signs, you should see a spine surgeon for evaluation.