Woman with leg painAt first impression, it may not seem that problems with your legs are something that a chiropractor can help with. But the truth is that just about everything that happens in your body goes through the spine first. Often, problems in the extremities can be traced back to the spine, due to misalignment, slipped discs, or other disorders.

Identifying Factors to Diagnose Leg Pain

  • Path of the pain (i.e. Where does it radiate from? Where does it go?)
  • Nature of the pain (Is it shooting, dull, achey, sharp? Sometimes it doesn’t even classify as pain, but rather tingling, numbness, and/or weakness.)
  • Position when pain is most acute (Often, pain will spike with a certain movement or angle.)
  • Frequency of the pain (Is it a continuous pain, or intermittent?)
  • What helps the pain (Does it feel better when you treat it with heat or an ice pack? Can you find relief in a certain position?)  

One important thing to understand when it comes to diagnosing leg discomfort or pain is the concept of referred pain. Referred pain is pain which is actually originating from a completely different location in the body. One example of this is how a heart attack can manifest as arm pain first, although the actual problem is in a different location. Often, referred pain is more dull, and hard to pin down. It might be felt now here, now there.

Sciatica and Lumbar Radiculopathy

Two terms that you’ll often hear in conjunction with leg pain are sciatica and lumbar radiculopathy. What do these terms mean? The sciatic nerve branches from the spine in the lower back, and it’s the origin of most leg function, movement, and sensation. When pain radiates from the sciatic nerve and into the leg, it’s often given the blanket term “sciatica.”

Radiculopathy is a nerve disorder wherein the discs between vertebrae become damaged or deteriorate, usually due to age. Lumbar radiculopathy means that this degenerative condition is happening in the lower back region, which can easily lead to sciatica pain shooting down the leg.

Other Common Leg Pain Issues

  • Lumbar herniated disc
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Foot drop
  • Shin splints and other sports-related injuries

Many of these problems are degenerative, and can cause a domino effect throughout the body. As such, it’s important to have them diagnosed and treated as soon as they become problematic. This can help us to halt degeneration when possible and help your body to stay healthy for longer.