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Lower Extremity Pain
Pain, Numbness, Tingling, and Weakness of the Lower Extremities
When a patient is experiencing pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs or feet and they do not have a distinct injury in the same area, there are typically three possible causes for those symptoms. The first cause is nerve irritation. The second cause is decreased circulation or some type of blood flow problem. The third cause is musculoskeletal pain referral. In my clinical experience nerve irritation has been the cause of these symptoms a majority of the time. This page will discuss nerve irritation as a cause of lower extremity pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Click here for more information regarding musculoskeletal pain referral.
Skin sensation (pain, numbness, tingling) reflexes and muscle control are all controlled by nerves. Nerve damage or irritation can cause alterations with any or all of those three functions. An example of nerve irritation is hitting your "funny bone." When one "hits their funny bone," they are actually hitting a nerve that passes through the under side of the elbow. This direct pressure irritates the nerve causing numbness and tingling in the pinky and ring fingers, which are both areas where that nerve travels. The nerves in the leg are very long, traveling from your low back all the way to your toes. They can be irritated anywhere along their pathway.
Below are a few examples of possible causes of nerve irritation in the lower extremities.
Intervertebral Disc Injuries
As a nerve exits the spine it passes by the intervertebral disc. If there is a disc bulge, protrusion, or herniation injury the disc may be touching the nerve causing irritation. Even if the disc injury is not causing the disc to touch the nerve, it can irritate the nerve by crowding it. The disc injury may also cause a chemical reaction leading to nerve irritation. For more details about disc injuries click here.
What are a few possible causes of an Intervertebral Disc Injury?
Traumatic Spinal Sprain/Strain Injury
As a nerve exits the spine and after it passes the intervertebral disc it then passes the spinal facet joint. If the spinal facet joints have been injured there can be excessive fluid from swelling that may apply pressure by crowding the nerve. There may also be tight or spasmed muscles that apply pressure on the nerve. For more details about sprain/strain injuries click here.
What are a few possible causes of a Traumatic Spinal Sprain/Strain Injury?
Sciatica is a term used to describe symptoms arising from irritation of the sciatic nerve. Patients that are experiencing "sciatica" may feel pain, numbness, or tingling anywhere in the back of the leg (buttock, thigh, calf, and heel) or in the feet or toes. Sciatica symptoms are usually worsened by lifting, straining or coughing. The sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves in the body. It starts in the low back where it exits the spinal cord and passes by the discs and joints. It continues into the buttock, then into the back of the thigh and leg and proceeds all the way down to the foot and toes. Sciatica is usually accompanied by low back pain.
What are a few possible causes of sciatic nerve irritation or "sciatica?"
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