When someone mentions low back pain our minds often conjure up images of a person hunched over, clutching their achy back. We’ve all experienced lower back pain at some point, and we can relate to the struggles and limitations it brings during those acute episodes. But what happens when back pain comes with unexpected symptoms like tingling or shooting pain down the leg? It can be confusing and worrisome. Let’s take a lighthearted journey into the anatomy of the low back to unravel the origins of these mysterious symptoms.

Unveiling the Backstage of the Spine

Picture the front of the spine, where the heavy-duty vertebral bodies and shock-absorbing disks diligently carry 80% of our weight. Now, venture to the back, where the spinous and transverse processes connect to the muscles and ligaments. Ah, and there they are—the tiny boney pieces known as pedicles. These pedicles determine the size of the holes through which the nerves make their grand exit from the spine.

The Case of the Narrowed Nerve Exits

Sometimes, due to genetic factors, these pedicles can be short, leading to compressed nerves. Enter foraminal spinal stenosis, where the nerves find themselves in a pinch due to the narrowed openings. This usually occurs as we age and osteoarthritis and degenerative disk disease join the party, crowding these nerve exits called “foramen.” But wait, there’s more! Short pedicles can also narrow the “central canal” where the spinal cord takes its journey up and down the spine. As time goes by, a combination of factors like disk bulging, osteoarthritic spurs, and ligament thickening can create a spectacle known as “central spinal stenosis.” Cue the symptoms!

Symptom Adventures: Tingling Legs and Beyond

Now, let’s talk symptoms. With spinal stenosis (whether foraminal or central), you might experience difficulty walking as tingling sensations gradually increase. Those legs might feel heavy, crampy, achy, or sore—one or both legs can join the sensation party. We call this tingling in the legs “neurogenic claudication,” which we must differentiate from “vascular claudication” caused by poor blood flow. The plot thickens!

Younger Troublemakers: Disks and Joints

In our younger years, tingling legs can also be attributed to a mischievous bulging or herniated lumbar disk. It can even be a case of referred pain from a joint—usually a facet or sacroiliac joint. The key difference between nerve and joint tingling lies in the symptoms. Nerve pinching from a misbehaving disk manifests in a specific area of the leg, like the inside or outside of the foot. Meanwhile, joint-related tingling feels like a deep, generalized achy-tingling that can affect the whole leg or foot. It’s a bit trickier to pinpoint, but it’s all part of the adventure!

Chiropractic to the Rescue!

Amidst this exciting journey into the mysteries of low back pain, there’s good news. Chiropractic care offers a non-invasive, effective solution—a non-surgical, non-drug approach that aligns with lower back pain guidelines. 

Have you been dealing with lower back pain, disk issues, or mischievous joints? Schedule a free consultation with me today and let’s work together on the solution that is best for you.