Help! I need a translator!
Let’s be clear. An overwhelming majority of the time, low back pain is considered “non-specific”. It can be really painful (have we mentioned that pain isn’t a great indicator of the seriousness of your problem?), but it’s not something to worry much about. It will get better.
Sometimes though, back pain can be a more complex issue. Let me explain.
As we diagnose back pain, we go through a process of weeding some possibilities out. First, we look at the “red flag” problems. This is the serious stuff. For example, cancer. Broken bones. Bone infections. Now, please keep in mind that even though it is serious, this is rare stuff. As I mentioned, the lion’s share is “non-specific” back pain. Muscles and joints; strains and sprains. Thankfully, this run of the mill variety of back pain tends to have a predictable course of recovery.
Then there’s the tricky stuff. So, let’s move on to the more common of the complex problems.
Getting a leg up…
We’ve often heard the term “sciatica”. You may have heard this from your doctor, but more likely from your neighbour or co-worker who “also have what you have”. Most of the time they mean that you have leg pain in addition to back pain. Frankly, it is a term that is a bit too general for my liking. Leg pain can mean many things, and it doesn’t always relate to your back. But when it does, leg pain might mean that you are in for a more complicated journey to recovery.
Leg pain might be isolated to your buttock. It might extend into your thigh, either in the front, the side, the back, or somewhere ‘inside’. It might even travel further beyond the knee to the ankle and/or foot. See? Lots of variety here. And take it from us, it’s not always that easy to figure out.
More often than not, if pain travels past the knee, we start thinking about more complicated sources of your problem. But what really sticks out isn’t pain. It’s weaknesses and/or loss of sensation. Now, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to what might create these leg problems.