There are two kinds of back and leg pain. One is acute or short term back and leg pain which could last from periods of a few days to a few weeks. This type of back pain is very common and may affect four out of five adults in the United States. The other type of back and leg pain is chronic, lasting for more than two months.
Chronic back and leg pain may be a symptom of a more serious condition. It is advised that you visit the doctor if you suffer from back pain that lasts longer than the normal two weeks to two months.
Here are some of the more common causes of back and leg pain:
Lumbar Spine Stenosis
This is a degenerative disease of the lumbosacral spine, affecting up to 90 percent of the U.S. population, most of them belonging to the middle aged or elderly age group. The disease is a major cause of morbidity, disability and lost productivity.
In lumbar stenosis, the cauda equina roots, a type of nerve found inside the spine, are entrapped within the dural sac, causing excruciating and incapacitating back and leg pain. This entrapment of the cauda equina roots is a result of progressive hypertrophy of any of the osseocartilaginous and ligamentous elements, soft tissues that surround the spinal canal.
Additionally, the degenerative changes or trauma could rupture or heniate the intervertebral disc, which is composed of a gelatinous, centrally located nucleus pulposes and a peripherally located annulus fibrosus.
Lumbar stenosis mostly affects men and the middle aged to the elderly, although it could also occur in women and younger patients. Back and leg pain is the earliest complaint of this condition, which is often treated with some of the self-care methods available. This results in delay in diagnosis.
Sciatica is a condition affecting the sciatic nerve. Since this nerve travels from the lower back through the buttocks and into the leg, the pain often occurs in any of these affected areas. Back and leg pain as a result of sciatica can be more or less severe and is caused by a herniated lumbar disc.
The degeneration (herniation) of the disc causes it to compress onto one of the contributing roots of the sciatic nerve, causing sharp back and leg pains to shoot up. Often, the pain in the leg, posterior thigh, or foot can be much worse than the accompanying lower back pain. At the onset, the patient usually experiences severe pain in the buttocks which runs all the way down through the legs or foot. In some cases, there is even no accompanying back pain.
Treating back and leg pain resulting from any of the two disorders mentioned will involve treating the disorders themselves. Any of the usual type of treatments available for normal back pains will provide little relief, if at all.