Leg Pain and Numbness: What Do They Mean?
Pain, numbness, or tingling in the legs affect most of us at one time or another. In many cases, these symptoms are caused by overuse of the leg muscles; for example, while engaging in sports or other strenuous exercises. Leg pain of this sort tends to be short-lived, presents itself in the form of cramps, muscle pain, weakness or spasms, and goes away by itself after a period of rest. But many people (up to 32% of Americans, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons) experience chronic leg pain, meaning that it occurs often, and for long periods of time. If you experience this kind of leg pain or numbness, there may be more serious causes of it, and you should consult a health care professional to determine what the cause is, and treat it.
Chronic leg pain may be caused by many problems, not all of them originating in the legs themselves. For instance, many problems that present themselves symptomatically as pain, numbness or tingling in the legs originate in the lower back. That is the location of the sciatic nerve, and if it is being irritated as the result of a structural problem in the spine or surrounding tissues, the pain can radiate along the path of that nerve to the legs. Common symptoms of leg problems that originate in the lower back include a burning pain that seems to travel from the lower back or buttocks to the legs, often described by patients as "electric" jolts or shocks. This condition is often caused by an irritated sciatic nerve, and is commonly referred to as sciatica.
Numbness or a tingling "pins and needles" feeling in the legs can also have their source in the lower back, as the result of a herniated lumbar disc, or because of poor circulation caused by pressure on the tarsal nerve. It can also be the result of spinal stenosis, caused by a narrowing of the spine and the resulting compression of (and pressure on) the spinal cord and nerves.
The bottom line is that there are many possible causes for chronic leg pain. Almost all of them can be successfully treated by a chiropractor, but first they must be properly diagnosed. This requires an examination not only of the legs but of the back and the spine. If you are experiencing leg pain, tingling, or numbness on a regular basis, see a specialist. Left undiagnosed and untreated, leg pain can become far worse, even debilitating.
To help your chiropractor diagnose what may be causing your leg pain, be specific about how your symptoms present themselves. The more information you can provide about what you are experiencing, the more likely it is that the doctor will be able to arrive at an accurate diagnosis, and thus prescribe the proper treatment to relieve it. For example, how often does the pain occur, and does it tend to occur more in the mornings or evenings, or after performing certain activities? What are the actual sensations you feel – are they more of a "shooting" pain, "electrical shock" pain, a burning sensation or a constant throbbing? Where are the actual locations of the pains themselves – in the upper legs, lower legs, or feet? Are there body positions or movements that tend to provoke the pain? Have you found that there are things that make the pain feel better or worse, and if so, what are they? This information can help your chiropractor to pinpoint the exact conditions that may be causing the pain, and thus treat it more effectively.