Pain Management, Spine Surgery

December 18, 2015

Are Chronic Back Problems Causing Your Leg Pain and Numbness?


Eight out of ten adults suffer leg pain or discomfort caused by back problems at some point in their lives.

The causes of chronic back pain vary, but persistent back problems may stem from poor posture, injury, overexertion or lack of exercise, or degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis. Diagnosis and treatment of back problems are sometimes problematic because pain can radiate out from the spinal column to present in your arms and legs. It can also appear and disappear with no apparent pattern.

An injury to the cervical spine may be characterized by neck and shoulder pain, tingling in the arm or hand numbness, or may manifest as headaches or dizziness. In the same way, leg pain causes can include an injury or deterioration of the lumbar spine. The leg pain that you feel may be severe, sharp, and stabbing, or it can be limited to chronic aches and a feeling of numbness or tingling. So, how can you tell what is really causing your leg pain?

Diagnosing Leg Pain and Numbness
You can assist your physician with diagnosis by monitoring the type, duration, and frequency of your symptoms and describing your pain in detail. Leg pain, whether it is acute or chronic, should always be a reason to have an orthopedic surgeon check your spine. Persistent discomfort can morph to debilitating pain without warning, and it can contribute to loss of mobility, disturbed sleep, difficulty sitting or standing, and loss of feeling in the foot.

The sciatic nerve extends through your buttocks and hip area, along each thigh and leg all the way to your foot. Pain is often limited to only one side, but because this is the longest nerve in the body, pain can be fleeting or changeable in character. Sciatica is a common diagnosis for leg pain and numbness, but the cause may stem from a variety of spinal conditions. Some of the other common causes of chronic leg pain are:

Leg pain often clears on its own, but you should always consult a physician if it persists for a week or more or if the pain appears following a sports injury or other accident. A physician can recommend a leg pain treatment option that will relieve your symptoms like epidural injections or, in some cases, spine surgery.

Treating Leg Pain and Numbness
The human spine is designed to twist and bend, but to ensure continuing health and flexibility, you have to give your spine the best possible care. Learn to sit, stand, and move in ways that minimize risk to the bony structure and central nervous system, and follow your doctor’s recommendations for healthy dieting and exercise.

If exercise and over-the-counter medication do not improve your leg pain and numbness, some initial treatment options for sciatic pain include prescription anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, or epidural steroid injections. If your leg pain causes you extreme discomfort, affects your quality of life, or stems from a degenerative condition, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend spine surgery.

If you have leg pain and numbness and need a neurological consultation in Arkansas, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020 to schedule an appointment with one of our renowned neurosurgeons or pain management.

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