Neurosurgery, Spine Surgery

November 21, 2022

Signs Your Leg Pain May Require Spine Surgery

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Most people experience pain in their legs at some point in their lives, whether it’s caused by an injury or wear and tear on the muscles and tendons. Usually, the pain goes away as the underlying issue heals or improves over time—but sometimes, spine surgery may be necessary to alleviate the pain in your legs. Here are some signs that you should see a specialist about your leg pain.

Types of Leg Pain Caused by Spine Issues

Common symptoms affecting the leg that are caused by spinal issues include:

  • Pain that radiates down your leg
  • Muscle weakness in your legs
  • Numbness, burning, or tingling sensations down your leg
  • Pain in only one leg
  • A feeling like an electric shock traveling down your leg
  • Difficulty walking

There are many reasons someone may experience these symptoms, so it’s important to see a doctor to determine the cause and if spinal surgery is needed.

Spine Conditions that Cause Leg Pain

Sciatica

If you experience a sharp, shooting pain in your leg that gets worse when you sit or stand, it could be sciatica. A herniated disc can cause this condition in your spine by pressing on the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down to the legs.

In addition to leg pain, you may also have tingling, numbness, or weakness in your leg. It’s important to see a doctor if you experience these symptoms because they can lead to more serious problems.

Spinal Stenosis

One of the most common causes of leg pain is spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of spaces in your spine. This can put pressure on your nerves and cause pain, numbness, or weakness in your legs.

If you have spinal stenosis, you may notice that your pain worsens when you stand or walk for long periods. Sitting down or bending forward may help relieve your pain. Serious cases of spinal stenosis may require surgery to widen the space where the nerve is being compressed. While this doesn’t always eliminate pain, it typically makes it more manageable.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease can include numbness, tingling, and pain that shoots from the lower back down to your legs. If you experience these symptoms, consult a spine specialist for an examination. The specialist will use an x-ray and/or MRI to rule out a spinal fracture or other issues before diagnosing you with degenerative disc disease. Surgery may be needed if the cause is not detected early enough.

Treatment Options for Leg Pain Caused by Spine Issues

A few options are available if you are dealing with leg pain. Depending on the severity of your pain, you may find relief with over-the-counter medication, physical therapy, or steroid injections.

Spine surgery may be an option if your pain is severe and does not respond to these conservative treatments. Before pursuing surgery, talk to your doctor about your treatment options and get a second opinion from a spine specialist.

Surgery for Leg Pain Caused by Spine Issues

There are a few spine surgeries that can be performed. Some of the most common include:

  • Laminectomy, which removes bony growths from the spinal canal to relieve pressure on compressed nerve roots
  • Discectomy, which removes (and sometimes replaces) a herniated disc
  • Vertebral fusion, which stabilizes vertebrae in your spine by fusing them together

Is Your Leg Pain Caused by a Spine Problem?

If you’ve had leg pain for an extended period of time, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and speak with your doctor about the best treatment options for your condition. Spinal surgery might be necessary if your symptoms worsen quickly without relief or increase in intensity without any known cause.

The spine surgeons at Arkansas Surgical Hospital can determine the cause of your leg pain and help you find treatment options that work for you. Request an appointment online or call (501) 748-8000 to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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