Back pain is a common complaint among adults, and as people age, these issues can worsen. Sometimes, back and leg pain can go together, and the cause might require a doctor to identify the root of the problem. Back and leg pain causes can include congenital or degenerative conditions, such as herniated disk, spinal stenosis, tumors, and scoliosis.
Sciatica, a symptom of back disorders characterized by shooting pains that radiate down the leg, is not a disorder on its own but rather the name given to the symptom. The shooting pain known as sciatica can actually signal a variety of other back disorders, which is why it is important for any type of persistent back and leg pain to be examined by a doctor. Most commonly, sciatica is the result of pinched nerves in the lower back, usually in the lumbar or sacral areas. Sciatica can also be a sign of herniated disk, which occurs when a disk bulges and swells; in some cases, sciatica can be a sign of a tumor pressing on the spinal column. Because this type of pain can signal a severe problem, it is always important for patients to consult a doctor if symptoms persist or worsen.
Herniated disk and spinal stenosis can both cause back pain, numbness, or tingling that radiates to the nearby areas, including the leg. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the lumbar spinal canal, which cushions the spine. The nerves can pinch together when this canal narrows. Another back disorder that can eventually spread to the legs is scoliosis. Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine measuring at least 10 degrees. Some sufferers are born with it, while others develop the condition over time. Depending on the degree of curvature, it can also cause leg pain, especially after overexertion of the spine. The abnormal spinal curve might also cause the patient to develop a limp to maintain balance, and over time, this can cause pain in both the back and leg. All of these disorders can actually go undetected for years because nerves are not pinched, or the curvature of the spine is not severe enough to cause discomfort. Some patients are surprised to learn after a sudden outbreak of back pain that they have been suffering from one of the above disorders for years.
In many cases, back and leg pain causes can be seen after years of habits that can be harmful to spinal health: a couple of examples include poor posture or sitting at a desk for hours at a time without getting up to walk around and stretch frequently. People who sit unevenly, such as those who carry tool belts on the hip or wallets in their back pockets might also affect their posture over time. When no underlying medical reason is found for back pain, the simple solution is to correct posture and strengthen the core through exercise; this, in turn, strengthens the back and can help relieve pain in the future.
Back and leg pain causes vary depending on the condition; treatment can include anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or chiropractic care. When none of these solve the problem, surgery might even be prescribed. Because the spinal column is extremely delicate, it is crucial for anyone suffering from persistent back pain to see a doctor who specializes in spine care.
Written By: Updated: June 23,2011