Many conditions can cause leg pain and foot pain. Commonly, the main cause of the symptoms has its origin in the lower back, which is where the nerves branch out from the spine to provide function to the muscles in the leg, ankle, and foot.
Low back conditions that are common causes of leg pain and/or foot pain—and associated neurological symptoms such as numbness or foot drop—are outlined below.
Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease
As we age, our intervertebral discs dehydrate (lose water), degenerate, lose their flexibility and allow small movements, which can cause pain from the disc that may radiate down the leg. While the primary symptom of lumbar degenerative disc disease is usually low back pain, leg pain and foot pain are also common symptoms.
When lumbar degenerative disc disease presents with leg pain and/or foot pain, this is called “referred pain.” Another common example of referred pain includes neck/arm or shoulder pain caused by heart attacks. The brain cannot always distinguish exactly where the pain source is, and so feels pain more vaguely in multiple areas. Referred pain is typically dull, achy, and poorly localized.
Leg pain from degenerative disc disease can also result if the nerve root is compressed. This happens because as the disc degenerates it shrinks and moves, and as a result, there is not as much room for the nerve roots. This is also known as foraminal stenosis. Leg pain from a compressed and inflamed nerve root is typically shooting and electric.
Lumbar Herniated Disc
A disc herniation tends to put pressure on the weakest spot in a disc, an area that happens to be right under the nerve root. This results in pain that can radiate all the way down the sciatic nerve throughout the patient’s leg and into the foot. Depending on the nerve root affected, other nerves (beside the sciatic nerve) may also be involved.
Continue reading the original article from Spine Health here.