Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?

Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?

Oh, that leg pain and leg numbness is once again stopping you from going about your routine life? Take a deep breath! You are not alone. There are thousands of people, who deal with leg pain and numbness, which can range from a mild ache to excruciating pain preventing them from walking, sleeping or performing day-to-day tasks. Ironically, no two people describe leg pain the same. For some, the pain feels like a vague ache, while others experience a throbbing, burning pain. And, both categories often also complain of numbness, weakness or tingling sensation.

So, what could your leg pain and numbness mean? What are the leg pain reasons? Should you ignore it and will it away? Or, should you delve deeper and understand what the symptoms are trying to tell you? Obviously, the latter!

Many people don’t realize the origin of leg pain often is in the lower back. It is where the sciatica nerve starts and runs down the leg. So, if you do complain of leg pain and numbness, rather than checking just your leg, the doctor should also examine your lower back to reach the root cause of the pain.

Symptoms of Leg Pain

Just because yours and your neighbor’s leg pain is due to lower back problems, it doesn’t mean the symptoms will manifest in the same manner. On the contrary, you may have certain symptoms that your neighbor doesn’t or vice versa.

Nonetheless, some of the typical symptoms that leg pain sufferers experience are as follows:

  • Tingling Sensation:This is quite different from your leg “falling asleep”. Here, the leg numbness is continuous and you just can’t feel pressure and cold or hot sensation. With this numbness, routine life is disrupted and you won’t be able to walk properly or drive. People can experience complete numbness or just pins-and-needles.

  • Burning Sensation:You may experience what is described as a searing pain that originates from your buttocks or lower back and runs all the way down to your foot. This pain is unbearable and often extremely painful. It occurs when the sciatica nerve is irritated.

  • Foot Weakness:Also referred to as foot drop, this symptom is more like experiencing a heaviness that prevents your foot from functioning normally. This causes you to drag your lower extremity and hinder your ability to walk on your heels or flex your ankle.

  • Continual Pain: Sometimes, people experience constant pain in the buttock region, which may radiate to the leg. It often occurs just on one side and you may experience some amount of relief if you stretch your leg or walk a bit.

  • Positional Pain: Many times you may notice your leg pain tends to get worse when you sit, walk or stand. This, in fact, is an indication that there is definitely something wrong with your lower back and it needs proper diagnosis and treatment.

What is Causing Your Leg Pain?

There are many reasons why you could be suffering from leg pain and numbness. If you want to get relief from this problem, it is important you get an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Some of the common afflictions of the lower back that cause leg pain and numbness are:

  • Herniated Disc: If you have a herniated disc in the lumbar region, it will exert pressure on the sciatica nerve root, causing pain along the path of the nerve. Thankfully, you can opt for non-surgical treatment options to get relief from the leg pain. However, if the pain is excruciating and debilitating, you may have to opt for decompression surgery wherein a part of the herniated disc is removed to ease the pressure exerted on the nerve root.

  • Degenerative Disc Disease:When the synovial fluid between the discs dry out, they tend to degenerate, causing the disc to lose flexibility and become painful. This pain radiates down the leg besides experiencing lower back pain. Typically, the pain is a dull ache. However, at times, when the roots of the nerve get compressed, the pain can be a sharp, shooting one.
  • Spondylolisthesis: In this condition, one vertebra slip onto another, thereby affecting the structure and flexibility of the spinal health. As the spine becomes unstable, it causes pinching of the nerve, leading to pain in the leg. Spondylolisthesis can be treated with physical therapy and adequate rest. However, if the spine is completely unstable and you experience a lot of pain, the doctor may suggest opting for a fusion surgery.

  • Spinal Stenosis:When the spinal canal in the lumbar region gets compressed due to enlargement of the vertebral joints, it results in a condition known as lumbar spinal stenosis. This condition is common among seniors due to age-related degeneration of the spine. The condition develops over a period of time and can easily be diagnosed with the help of an MRI.
  • Vitamin B complex and B 12 deficiency: Vitamin B complex (B 12, folic acid, pyridoxine) are important in myelin (covering over nerves) formation and deficiency of these can cause impaired nerve functions which causes symptoms of numbness and tingling. So all patients should check for vitamin B12 level and if Deficiency supplements are should be started.
  • Diabetes: Tingling and numbness is perhaps the most common complication of diabetes. Diabetes causes neuropathy. And this causes impaired nerve functions and all these symptoms. So strict control of diabetes is needed for preventing the leg pain.

Collectively, these causes are referred to as sciatica since the pain tends to run along the path of the sciatica nerve. However, in majority cases, the problem lies in the lower back or lumbar region rather than the leg or nerve.

Accurate Diagnosis is the Key

While there are some other conditions, such as sacroiliac joint dysfunction and piriformis syndrome, that cause leg pain and sciatica-like symptoms, the key to getting relief from your leg pain and numbness is an accurate diagnosis. Based on the diagnosis, the doctor will suggest a course of treatment.

However, for a doctor to diagnose the cause of your leg pain and numbness, it is important you offer a clear picture about the symptoms. Hence, here are some of the things that you should make note of if you experience leg pain and numbness.

  • How is the pain radiating from your back?
  • What body position causes the pain, or result in exacerbation of the pain
  • What is the sensation you experience – ache, tingling, searing pain or lancinating pain?
  • How often do you get the pain? Is it continuous, frequently or occasionally?
  • What worsens the pain?
  • What improves the pain?

It is this type of information that will help your doctor figure out the actual cause of the pain along with your medical history, physical examination and diagnostic tests. Once the root cause is pinpointed, you can heave a sigh of relief, as your treatment will begin and the pain will become a distant memory. Sehat offers several listing of specialists by city like neurologist in mumbai, neurologist in pune to research and choose the best doctor for your leg pain and numbness. While a conventional doctor treats your leg numbness and pain, you also can opt for certain home remedies for leg pain.

So, what are you going to do about your leg pain and numbness? Live with the debilitating condition or take proactive measures to find the leg pain reasons and lead a healthy, normal life?

Reviewed By:

Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)

Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad