Why does my leg hurt?

Pain in your legs can be caused by many things, when it’s related to a spinal issue, very often people will experience sharp shooting pains. You may have heard this referred to as sciatica. Sciatica is an electrical, shooting pain that goes done into the calf or even the foot and can be quite debilitating and agonizing. Often it is worse when sitting or when coughing or sneezing.

Low back pain is a different entity and we will discuss that in another article.

How does a spinal issue cause leg pain?

Sciatica is a typical nerve pain and points towards a possible slipped disc. The disc material causes an irritation and inflammation of the nerve and the nerve is swelling, getting bigger and will need even more space – but there isn’t any. These are the same substances that also play a role in allergic reactions or the swelling after a bee’s sting.

A possible numbness or weakness in the leg is the result of pure mechanical compression – in contrast to the chemical inflammation. Interestingly enough by seeing an MRI scan of a slipped disc it is impossible to guess the intensity of the patient’s symptoms: Whether there is a numbness or not or whether there is a lot of pain or not, is not related to the size of the slipped fragment. Small disc fragments can cause terrible pain and large ones don’t. To some extent this has to do with the water content of the disc material. By no means it is a liquid substance, but it varies from dry and solid to a softer and gel-type structure.

How can you treat leg pain caused by a slipped disc?

This can be seen on the MRI and allows also a certain prediction if a spontaneous regression of the disc and improvement of the pain is likely or not. Treatment options include medication and early physiotherapy, injections to the inflamed nerves (for example epidural injections) or a surgical removal of the slipped disc material (ideally using the most minimally invasive approach of course).

No disk herniation is like the other and therefore an expert’s opinion and individual consultation is inevitable.