The Connection Between Lower Back and Leg Pain

It is estimated that roughly eighty percent of Americans will have back pain issues during their lifetime, which yields a high demand for treatment in the chiropractic industry. What patients who suffer from this may not realize is the connection between lower back and leg pain. In many instances, the two are related, with leg pain occurring as the result of damage to the outer layer of a disk located in the back.

The Connection Between Lower Back and Leg Pain

Although back pain is common among adults, the causes of it may be more varied. The three main contributors to back pain are usually:

  1. Blood flow and circulation problems – The less active a person is, the poorer their blood flow and circulation can be, and this invites blood to pool in areas of the body where it is not typically welcome, hence the back pain.
  2. Inflammation – While it is normal for inflammation to occur after an injury, it generally helps speed up the healing process before it subsides. However, in some cases the inflammation does not go away, and this can cause chronic back pain over time.
  3. Spine and nerve irritation – This type of back pain is generally caused by postural stress. This can stem from poor posture, sitting still for hours at a time, or from contorting the body into different positions as required by some occupations, such as painting or air conditioning repair. Spine and nerve irritation can occur for some time before symptoms become noticeable.

Back pain can be a unique experience depending on each individual’s condition and circumstances, but most patients report common symptoms to include:

  • Aching of muscles
  • Burning feeling
  • Stabbing sensation
  • Discomfort in standing or walking
  • Difficulty bending or twisting the body
  • Inability to lift heavy objects
  • Radiating pain that goes down into the leg

This last point is worth some extra attention as many patients who experience leg pain will discover via a chiropractor that it is often related to pain originating in the back.

How A Chiropractor Determines Leg Pain Is Related to Lower Back Pain

A patient who enters a chiropractor’s office complaining of leg pain that may or may not be associated with the lower back must undergo an examination to better determine the true source of pain. When it comes to leg pain, there are two primary types:


This type of pain can arise when a nerve root is either pinched or compressed, most often in the form of a herniated lower back disk. Symptoms of radicular lower back related leg pain can include muscle weakness and sensory impairment.


Instead of coming from a herniated disk, referred pain typically comes from the outer layer of the disk in the form of a tear, ligament, or joint. However, referred pain can be a warning sign of the growing potential for a herniated disk. Symptoms of referred leg pain are usually described by patients as an aching or numbing feeling that does not extend beyond the knee.

Determining which type of leg pain a patient is experiencing is critical to their treatment plan as it guides a chiropractor in knowing which tissues and structures in the lower back may need to be addressed. Patient health history is also a valuable tool in evaluating leg pain as it is possible for it to be caused by factors in addition to or other than back pain.

How Lower Back Related Leg Pain May Be Treated

Over the years, much research has been done regarding effective treatments of lower back related leg pain. These studies have yielded two primary treatment options for patients to discuss with their providers:

  1. A combination of epidural corticosteroid injections, prescriptions medications, and surgery
  2. Spinal manipulation

In some studies, spinal manipulation was shown to be more effective than exercise, passive modalities, or no treatment at all. However, many chiropractors are encouraging their patients who are experiencing lower back related leg pain to combine spinal manipulative therapy with exercise as a multi-tiered approach, which has shown more merit than relying on a single treatment strategy alone.

Things for Patients Experiencing Lower Back Related Leg Pain to Remember for Their Chiropractic Appointment

When a patient goes to see a chiropractor for back related leg pain, the personal health history they provide is equally as important as the provider’s examination. Together they paint a whole picture which is critical in determining the right course of treatment.

Some things for patients to remember for their chiropractic appointment are:

  • Be honest and specific. Patients should be completely transparent about the pain they are experiencing, as well as thoroughly answering the chiropractor’s questions with as many details as possible.
  • Be prepared for a physical exam and an adjustment. After evaluating a patient’s physical health, it is not uncommon for chiropractors to do an adjustment at the same appointment.
  • Receive a treatment plan. Once the source or sources of pain have been determined, a chiropractor should map out a treatment plan for future visits.

If you believe the connection between lower back and leg pain is affecting you physically, do not wait for the pain to grow worse before seeking help. Take a crucial step in eliminating that pain and make an appointment with a trusted and reputable chiropractor today.

Hamel Chiropractic and Wellness