Why do I have leg pain? How are the spinal discs relevant?

When assessing leg pain it is important to assess the spinal discs. The spinal discs are located between each vertebra of your spine. They act as shock absorbers to the forces affecting the spine. This allows flexibility and aids range of motion. As one ages, the discs can begin to break down. This is a normal process. Almost everybone’s spinal discs break down over time. However, if the wear and tear of the spinal disc is the cause of one’s pain, they are diagnosed as having degenerative disc disease.

What is the structure of the spinal discs?

The tough outer shell of a spinal disc is called the ‘annulus fibrosus’ and the soft inner core is called the ‘nucleus pulposus’.

leg pain spinal degeneration

What causes spinal discs to degenerate?

  • Drying out: At birth, the spinal discs contain lots of water. However, as one ages the discs lose water and height. Due to the reduction of water, there is a correlated reduction in space and shock absorption between the vertebrae. The vertebrae therefore get closer together and larger forces flow through the spine.
  • Cracking: General movements throughout life, or previous injuries, can cause small tears in the annulus fibrosus (which contain nerves) causing pain. Furthermore, larger tears allow the nucleus pulposus to push through the annulus fibrosus to cause a disc protrusion or herniation. These may place pressure on local nerves.

Signs, symptoms and diagnosis:

  • The pain to be located in the lower back, glutes or upper thighs. It can also lead to tingling in the legs.
  • Leg pain or back pain to increase when sitting and decrease when moving or walking.
  • The leg pain or back pain to increase when twisting, bending or lifting.
  • A reduction in pain when you lie down.
  • The leg pain or back pain to vary – it can be grumbling or severe and can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.
leg pain checklist

How is it diagnosed?

When assessing if a patient may have degenerative disc disease, your practitioner is likely to ask:

  • When the pain started?
  • The body area in pain?
  • If there is any tingling/numbness/weakness in the arms or legs?
  • Has there been any previous spinal injuries?
  • If there is a family history of degenerative disc disease in the family?

The practitioner is likely to examine:

  • The gait.
  • The spine.
  • Sacroiliac joints.
  • The hips.
  • Local musculature.
leg pain checklist

A thank you note.

Finally, Pinnacle Posture thanks you for reading this blog post. We hope you liked it. Importantly, please share it via social media and direct it to those that it may help. After all, a reduction in pain, a chance to continue in a sport or even an eased concern can change someone’s world.