Is The Pain In My Leg(s) Coming From My Back?

In my Barrhaven physiotherapy practice, it is quite common to diagnose my client’s leg pain as referred from their low back. They are often surprised to find that out, as they sometime only have leg pain and no back pain. It is actually not uncommon to have leg pain referred from the low back without having any noticeable discomfort in the back. This is why physiotherapist should almost always be screening the low back when clients report leg pain.

Referred Pain to Leg

referred pain

One of the more common reason for referral of pain down the leg is a pinched nerve in the back. The structure that causes the pinching could be many things (tumor, bone spurs, etc.), although it is often the disk. This could be accompanied by numbness or tingling down the leg (often starting at the toes). This pain coming down the back of the leg is how we often describe sciatica.

Barrhaven: Is Your Leg Pain Related to Your Back?

I have listed below some of the things you can watch out for or test to see that can possibly indicate if your pain is coming from your leg. Please be aware that the following is not absolute. They should not be used for diagnosis. They can however give you some simple hints on where your leg pain is coming from.

  1. If your leg pain gets better, worse or change location when you:
    1. Bend forward and try to touch your toes from standing
    2. Bend backwards as far as possible from standing
  2. Numbness and Tingling in the legs (although this could also be caused by other things, like Diabetes)
  3. There is a defined line connecting your leg and back pain
  4. Your leg pain came on without apparent reason.
  5. If you have pain in both legs, both of them started hurting together around the same time
  6. Prolonged sitting makes your leg worse. The longer you sit, the more painful they get.

Barrhaven: Do you have questions about your leg or back pain?

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to give me a call at the clinic here in Barrhaven. We also offer 15-minute free consultations to help answer any of your questions! You can also read more articles regarding low back pain on this website.


Here are some related articles you might be interested in:

Understanding Back Pain

There are many reasons why someone might have back pain. I will be listing below 2 more common scenarios for Low Back Pain and what might be causing them. These 2 presentations of low back issues make up a BIG percentage of low back patients in my physiotherapy practice. If you have back pain, more likely than not, you are in one of these 2 types. Read More…

Tips to Reduce Back Pain

Depending on what type of back pain you have, I have listed some trips to help reduce your back pain. Read More…

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About the Author:

Lily ZhangLily Zhang is a registered physiotherapist with training specializing in the McKenzie Method.  She graduated from McGill University and is currently working in Barrhaven (Ottawa, ON). She has over 10 years of professional training/clinical experience in orthopedic physiotherapy.  You can Follow Her Blog @PhysioVive Facebook Page.

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