Can Back Pain Cause Leg Pain?

Dr. Eric DePopas, MD

Dr. Eric DePopas, MD

PainTheory Chief Medical Officer
Vascular & Interventional Radiologist

Table of Contents

If you begin feeling pain in two parts of your body simultaneously, you may wonder if the pain is related. This is often the case for patients experiencing both leg and back pain. Lower back pain is a common condition impacting 50 to 80% of adults each year. Although back pain is common, lower back pain with accompanying leg weakness (difficulty moving one or both of your legs) or leg pain could mean you’ll need more than just an ice pack and some time on the couch to feel better.

We’ve put together this guide to help you better understand how back and leg pain correlate and provide treatment options that will help you start moving pain-free again. 

Lower back pain and leg weakness

Your spinal cord consists of 31 pairs of spinal nerves and roots. When one of these nerves gets pinched, it can alter the messages sent to other parts of your body, like your legs. If your back pain is causing leg weakness or leg tingling, these could be warning signs that you may be experiencing severe nerve compression, and we recommend a visit to your doctor. 

PHYSICIAN INSIGHT

It’s important to note that lower back pain doesn’t cause all leg weakness. Trauma or rheumatoid arthritis could also make it difficult for you to move your legs.

Lower back pain and leg pain

When your spinal nerve roots are compressed or irritated, you may experience lower back pain, and this pain may radiate into your legs. This is a sign that you may have a condition called sciatica

What is sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It travels from your lower back down your legs. If one or more of the roots that make up the sciatic nerve get compressed, you may experience lower back and leg pain. Sciatica typically only impacts one leg but can occasionally affect both legs. You may find that the pain increases when you sit, cough, or sneeze.

What causes sciatica?

Several conditions can irritate the sciatic nerve, including:

Risk factors for sciatica

Sciatica is sometimes unavoidable, but certain factors can increase your risk of developing this condition. The most common risk factors are:

Back pain and leg pain treatment

Anytime you experience pain, it’s a good idea to set up an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause of your pain. If your doctor determines that your back and leg pain are caused by sciatica, you have a few different treatment options. 

Sciatica treatment options

Although surgery made the list as a potential treatment option, for 70-80% of patients, non-surgical options relieve their symptoms and surgery isn’t necessary. 

Talk With Your Doctor

Pain can make life uncomfortable when it doesn’t have to be. Talk with your doctor to identify the cause of your pain and begin a treatment plan. If you’ve spoken with your doctor already and are interested in learning more about spinal cord stimulation as a treatment plan, click here to chat with a PainTheory specialist. 

We're here to help

Our team is happy to help with any questions you may have. We are available for calls and texts during typical business hours, otherwise schedule a call or send us an email at your convenience.

 

The information included in this document in no way substitutes for medical advice.

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