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Is Leg Pain a Spinal Issue?

31% of Americans report leg pain, leg numbness, and leg weakness, and in patients aged 65 or over, that number increases to 50%. Patients question, “Is leg pain a spinal issue?” In some cases, leg pain is caused by a spinal issue. Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery (VSON) has an expert team of spine doctors who help patients identify if a spinal issue is contributing to symptoms of leg pain, leg numbness, and leg weakness. Our expert team of spine doctors includes:

Your VSON spine doctor can determine if leg pain is a spinal issue. The most common causes of leg pain related to the spine are lumbar radiculopathy, sciatica, or spinal stenosis.

Lumbar Radiculopathy

Leg pain, leg numbness, and leg weakness can be caused by lumbar radiculopathy. Nerves radiate from the spine outward, including down the legs. Several nerve roots distribute from the lower (lumbar) back to the lower body, including the saphenous, femoral, obturator, and sciatica nerves. A bone spur, herniated disc, or condition that compresses the nerve root can cause lumbar radiculopathy. Patients notice:

  • Leg pain

  • Leg numbness

  • Leg weakness

  • Burning, tingling

  • Difficulty walking

  • Foot heaviness

The VSON spine specialists are highly experienced in treating patients with lumbar radiculopathy. An exam and imaging will identify the source of the nerve injury. Physical therapy, pain management, avoiding trigger activities, injection therapy, and rest often help. Surgery to relieve the nerve root is available when indicated.


When your spine doctor diagnoses “sciatica,” it is radiculopathy of the sciatica nerve. The largest lumbar nerve, the sciatic nerve, distributes through the lower back, buttocks, and the back of the thigh and calf. Patients can experience symptoms that include:

  • Mild to excruciating back/buttocks pain

  • Leg pain along the back of the thigh/calf/foot

  • Fallen asleep/electric jolt/buzz sensation

  • Foot dragging

  • Bladder/bowel changes

A physical examination and diagnostic imaging are used to identify the source of the pain as the sciatica. Rest, pain management, physical therapy, and injection therapy are prescribed. Minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery is indicated for acute cases. Getting sciatica patients out of pain is a top priority.

Lumbar stenosis

Normal wear and tear can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal, called spinal stenosis. When this occurs in the lower back, it is known as lumbar stenosis. This condition can affect the legs. Disc degeneration, growth of bone spurs, injury to the spine, and thickening of spinal ligaments may also contribute to stenosis. Patients experience:

  • Leg pain

  • Mild pressure/discomfort

  • Worsening pain

  • Leg numbness

  • Difficulty walking

  • Leg weakness

  • Tingling/burning sensation down the leg

  • Leg cramping

Your spine doctor will begin treatment for lumbar stenosis with rest, pain management, physical therapy, and Injection therapy. When minimally invasive surgery is indicated, our highly qualified spine doctors have the expertise to eliminate the symptoms of lumbar stenosis.

For patients concerned their leg pain is a spinal issue, our expert VSON spine doctors can provide the diagnostics and treatment required. Our top priority is keeping you active.


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