I have pain going down my leg

Pain down your leg could present in many forms.  This could be a pain just go into your butt, this can be a pain that goes all the way down the back of your leg, back of your knee and even into your toes. Some of it might be numbness and tingling, some of it might be just some pain.

This is going to discuss why and how to resolve that pain that’s going down your leg.

The first thing to understand what is numbness and tingling is and understanding why you’re having numbness and tingling. Numbness and tingling means there’s a nerve that is involved.  When your leg falls asleep because you’ve been sitting on it too long, that’s a completely different story that is usually a circulation issue but any other time you have a numbness and tingling it means nerve involvement.

Nerves come out of the back and they’re going to go through the disc.  If the disc begins to bulge or herniate, the nerves will become affected.  You can picture a bulging disc as a jelly doughnut, when the inside begins to squirt out the hole, this is like a disc bulging or herniating.

The nerve can also be affected as muscles get tight.   As the muscles get tight they get shorter and as they get shorter they can start to compress that nerve.   As those muscles get tight they start to bother that nerve and can cause numbness and tingling going down the butt and into the legs and feet.

Just because you have a herniated disc doesn’t mean you’re going to have numbness and tingling and just because you have herniated disc and you have numbness and tingling that numbness and tingling may not be coming from the disc, it maybe coming from muscles that are actually tight.

If you’re experiencing numbness and tingling there has to be a nerve involved.  Numbness and tingling is a warning sign that you let things go on for too long it can eventually lead to loss of muscles strength and function.

Many times numbness and tingling starts off as intermittent numbness and tingling.  You can be sitting at work and you will get numbness and tingling into your feet, you stand up it goes away.  This can and will progress to numbness and tingling into the back of the knee and into the leg.  The numbness will also become more consistent and not just intermittent.  It will reach the point where a position change does not resolve the numbness and tingling.

Numbness and tingling can be caused by stenosis, muscle compensation or a herniated/bulging disc or a bulging disc. Muscle compensation is one of the greatest things that people ignore when they have herniated disc.  If there’s pain associated with the numbness and tingling, there’s something outside the nerve involvement.  This is what most commonly seen, a combination of a disc herniation and muscle compensation.  There’s numbness and tingling down the leg but there’s also back pain and leg pain and this pain is the muscle compensation not the herniated disc.  Many times once we relieve the muscle involvement, the numbness and tingling is completely resolved as is the pain.

A specific example of this is called piriformis syndrome and what people feel is a pain in my butt literally.  Many times after sitting for a long time people will feel a pain in the butt and they can put their finger right on it.  This pain will then lead to numbness and tingling down the leg.  Once we resolve the muscle tightness of the piriformis, the numbness and tingling and the pain will resolve.

It’s a snowball effect, and usually the snowball is a herniated disc and muscle compensation that goes hand and hand.  The numbness and the tingling will get worse and worse and the spasm will get worse, more frequent, more intense.  The main thing to understand with numbness and tingling is that if there’s muscle involvement it is treatable.  The better outcomes happens when people address it when it first starts to happen and not years later.

Muscle involvement and disc herniation can be completely resolved without medication, injections or surgery.

Most of the the time surgery, injections and medications fail because they do not address the problem.  They address the symptoms, just not the causes.  I see a lot of surgeries that fail and the person has the exact same pain before the surgery as they do after the surgery and the person gets frustrated and hopeless.  They can’t live a quality of life anymore.   The problem is before you have surgery you need to make sure that you address all the muscle involvement.

FYI 70% of all people have a herniated/bulging disc that shows up on an MRI.  Even people who have no back pain can have a bulging disc that shows up on an MRI.  So the fact that there is a disc herniation (or bulging disc, the words can be used interchangeably) does not necessarily mean that the pain is because of the disc.

Anti-inflammatories do not fix muscle compensation or herniated or bulging discs and only hides the compensation and pain and makes it worse.   If you’re popping an advil to help with the pain you did not solve anything.  Each time you take one you pack more and more onto the snowball making it harder and harder to actually heal from.  You are actually making your problem that much worse and eventually it’s going to catch up to you.  New studies have shown that conservative management like physical therapy is better results than any medication.

If you have spasms in your back, get pain when you’re sitting at your desk,  or if you get stiff while you drive, or you wake up and your back is sore you’re already started on the road to chronic pain.

So what you supposed to do?

First of all you’ve got to find out the correct diagnosis.  You need to make sure that you find out everything that is going on so that all the issues are addressed.  If we just take one piece (like just treating the disc for example) and ignore the others it’s not going to work.

One thing you can begin immediately is posture correction.  

Posture correction with low back pain is imperative.  If you want the magic pill like everybody does, making sure you have correct posture in sitting and standing is it and will get you on the road to correcting your back pain.  You have to do it over and over again so it becomes part of your everyday life.

Foam rolling is another way to treat back pain.  And it can also be another way to figure out the problems in the muscles.  If you hop on a foam roller for 5-10 minutes a day you get some pain, that is indicating that there is some muscle involvement.  You want to foam roll every day to try to reduce the muscle involvement by reducing the pain that you get with foam rolling.

Sleep is another posture habit that needs to be examined.  If  you do not sleep in the correct position you run the risk of having damage to your muscles or nerves.  Sleeping on your back or side is the best position to sleep in, stomach sleepers if you sleep on your stomach you are at a significant risk for herniating a disc and causing yourself neck pain.

If you want to find out more sign up for on of our FREE back pain and sciatica workshops by clicking here which will take place in either our North Wales or Hatfield, Pennsylvania locations.

We’re Hiring!
We have immediate openings for multiple positions. Everything from Physical Therapists to Admin Roles.

Scroll to Top