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3 causes of numbness and tingling down the leg

Tingling and numb leg
Andrea Dowd

Andrea Dowd

Andrea Dowd has been a practicing Athletic Therapist for 13 years. She owns Precision Sports Therapy INC in Calgary. Andrea focuses on manual therapy techniques and is a huge proponent of “ getting you back to it”, whatever that maybe. She focuses on putting you back together and then giving you the appropriate exercises to ensure you never have to go through the “injury and pain” again. If you would like to learn more about her you can visit her website precisionst.ca.

Whatever the cause, pinched nerves in the low back can be the most debilitating pain you’ll ever experience. The question is, where exactly is the problem coming from?

In the back we have our spine out of which the nerves exit and head down the back and lower legs. If the spine is healthy and injury free then there is no problem. However, if you have tried to lift something heavy with your back (and not your legs) and then rotated, you potentially could have what is called a prolapsed disc. A prolapsed disc, also referred to as a herniated or a slipped disc, is when the jelly part of the spine is escaping and potentially compressing on a nerve, which in turn causes numbness and tingling down the back of the leg and into the foot.

But what happens if you didn’t lift something improperly? In this case, the dull ache, numbness and tingling down your leg might not be from a prolapsed disc. One cause could be hip muscle imbalance which could lead to a tight piriformis. The sciatic nerve branch of the back nerves runs right under or in some cases, through the piriformis, thus if the piriformis is tight, it can pinch the sciatic nerve causing numbness and tingling down the leg (mimicking a disc injury).

Finally, if it isn’t your disc or piriformis, the nerve can be pinched from a narrowing of the space where the nerves exit the spine, a condition called spinal stenosis. Either way any of these injuries can cause debilitation and you end up in bed with extreme pain.

Luckily, you don’t need to figure this out on your own. Your Athletic Therapist can do a thorough assessment to figure out the root cause of the problem and provide effective treatment and appropriate exercises to help manage the symptoms. 

Try the following mobility and flexibility videos to help you with your low back pain:

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