Quite often leg pain or foot pain is not caused by a problem in the leg or foot, but rather by a condition in the lower back. Diagnosis of leg pain and other lower extremity symptoms should focus not only on the legs and hips, but should also include examination of the low back. In fact, with many low back problems, there is actually little or no low back pain. Instead, there may be leg pain, foot pain, and/or lower extremity numbness or weakness.
Compression or pressure on any of the nerve roots in the low back can cause pain, numbness or weakness along the different nerves as they travel down through the leg and into the foot. Because the sciatic nerve is commonly affected, leg pain and related symptoms are often generally referred to as sciatica, although medical professionals prefer the term radiculopathy.
Not all leg pain derived from low back problems presents the same way. Leg pain caused by a low back problem is often accompanied by additional symptoms, such as leg numbness or weakness, or foot pain, and the type of leg pain experienced may vary widely from patient to patient.
Some typical descriptions of leg pain and accompanying symptoms include:
- Leg numbness or tingling
- Weakness (foot drop) or heaviness
- Burning pain
- Constant pain
- Positional leg pain
All of these leg symptoms can be evidence of a problem in the low back, and it is usually advisable to seek medical attention to determine the cause of the pain and to find a course of treatment.
Several specific low back conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, and more, are common causes of leg pain and foot pain.