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Surprisingly it is very common to have low back and leg pain without being able to identify a specific injury or incident that caused it.

If someone suddenly began to have lower back pain that then led to pain, numbness and tingling down the leg to the foot and later to difficulty bending or sitting, often times that pattern of pain is caused by pressure on a nerve root as it comes off the spinal cord, traveling between vertebrae and down the leg to control muscles and provide sensation to skin.

The nerve root is often being compressed by a tear or bulge of the disc (fluid filled pouch that sits between the vertebrae to provide cushioning and shock absorption, as well as to keep pressure off nerves). When the disc has a tear or a bulge in it, the inflammation that ensues places pressure on the nerve as it travels between the vertebrae.

Compression on the nerve can cause pain, numbness and tingling, as well as weakness in the muscles of the low back and leg. The more compression there is on the nerve, the further down the leg the pain and numbness normally will be. Less compression on the nerve means that the pain will usually stay in the low back.

Due to the pressure on the nerve, anything that increases intra-abdominal pressure such as sneezing, coughing or laughing will increase the pressure on the disc and nerve root, which will in turn worsen the symptoms in the back and leg. Also, since nerves control the muscles, the nerve compression from the disc bulge or tear causes spasms and inflammation of the muscles in the back.

This is what makes it difficult to bend over and tie shoes.

To get rid of the pain, you need to reduce the pressure on the disc and nerve, which will cause the pain and numbness in the leg to go away. You need to begin performing proper flexibility and core strengthening and stability exercises with proper form.

The physical therapists and Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of low back and leg pain since we see and resolve it on a daily basis. Call for a free screen at 717-245-0400. We will tell you how we can resolve your pain and help you get your life back.

If you have a question you would like me to answer in one of my upcoming columns, please email your question to smiller@cardinmillerpt.com

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Steve Miller is the owner of Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy and can be reached by email at smiller@cardinmillerpt.com. His column will appear bi-monthly in the Thrive section of the Sentinel and on Cumberlink.com.