That Tingling in Your Leg
Do you experience tingling in your leg at the same time you’re having low back pain? If so, this article is for you, as it explains where that tingling sensation may be coming from.
When you think of low back pain, you may visualize a person half-bent over with their hand on the sore spot of their back. Since many of us have experienced low back pain during our lifetime, we can usually relate to a personal experience and recall how limited we were during the acute phase of our last LBP episode. However, when the symptoms associated with LBP are different, such as tingling or a shooting pain down one leg, it can be both confusing and worrisome – hence the content of this week’s article!
Lower Back Anatomy
Let’s look at the anatomy of the lower back to better understand where these symptoms originate. In the front of the spine (or the part more inside of the body), we have the big vertebral bodies and shock absorbing disks that support about 80% of our weight. At the back of each vertebrae you’ll find the spinous and transverse processes that connect to the muscles and ligaments in the back to the spine. Between the vertebral body and these processes are the tiny bony pieces called the pedicles. The length of the pedicle partially determines the size of the holes where the nerves exit the spine.
When the pedicles are short (commonly a genetic cause), the exiting nerves can be compressed due to the narrowed opening. This is called foraminal spinal stenosis. This compression usually occurs later in life when osteoarthritis and/or degenerative disk disease further crowds these “foramen” where the nerves exit the spine.
Similarly, short pedicles can narrow the “central canal” where the spinal cord travels up and down the spine from the brain.
Later in life, the combined effects of the narrow canal plus disk bulging, osteoarthritic spurs, and/or thickening or calcification of ligaments can add up to “central spinal stenosis.”
The symptoms associated with spinal stenosis (whether it’s foraminal or central) include difficulty in walking due to a gradual increase in tingling, heavy, crampy, achy and/or sore feeling in one or both legs.
The tingling in the legs associated with spinal stenosis is called “neurogenic claudication” and must be differentiated from “vascular claudication,” which feels similar but is caused from lack of blood flow to the leg(s) as opposed to nerve flow.
Tingling in the Legs At Younger Age
At a younger age, a bulging disk, a herniated lumbar disk, or a referred pain from a joint (usually a facet or sacroiliac joint) can cause tingling in the legs.
The main difference in symptoms between nerve vs. joint leg tingling symptoms is that nerve pinching from a deranged disk is located in a specific area in the leg such as the inside or outside of the foot.
In other words, we can fairly trace the tingling specifically in the leg. A deep, “inside the leg,” generalized achy-tingling that can affect the whole leg and/or foot (or it may stop at the knee) characterizes tingling from a joint; but patients have more difficulty describing this as it is less geographic or specific in its location.
Chiropractic management of all these conditions offers a non-invasive, effective form of non-surgical, non-drug care and is a recommended option in LBP guidelines when treating these conditions.