Top 5 Back Pain Causes and Leg Pain

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Deciphering Your Pain: The Top Five Causes of Back and Leg Pain

Looking for the cause of your back or leg pain is like looking for aliens –the possibilities are endless. It will also require more than a quick Internet search.

Whether you’re a rigorous health nut or a blue-collar worker spending hours on your feet, or even a couch potato who simply pulled a muscle, back and leg pain are not only inconvenient, but also downright painful.  

experiencing backpain

And the worst part, the root cause usually brings recurring pain and  there’s no immediate treatment to fix the issue permanently. Therefore, you will only have the next best thing – relief from the pain.

Nonetheless, know these five of the most common conditions involving recurring upper and lower back pain to help you trace the source of your leg and back pain.

Learn how to assess achy back and proper treatment.


1. Facet Joint Pain

Facet joint pain, resulting from a disorder, can create significant lower back and neck problems. This causes continuous discomfort, possibly even immobilising patients for a long time.

Despite the pain, however, facet joint problems don’t directly involve spinal nerves. Most often, symptoms of facet joint disorders include pain in the lumbar and cervical regions, which can occur from a few times per month to only a couple days out of the year.

Tenderness is generally felt in the affected joint area — from the lower back, through the buttocks and potentially up to the back of the upper thigh. If you feel more uncomfortable leaning backward than forward, this is probably the cause.

Applying cold pad

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For this pain, getting help from a trained physical therapist is your best option. Heat wraps or cold pads can alleviate the most painful areas. These should be complemented by proper exercises and good posture, that will be good in the long-term.

Also, many times making small changes to your physical routine throughout your day can stop creating the same problems in the affected joints.

2. Disc Pain

Spinal disc problems cause back-related pain, leg discomfort and other symptoms including fatigue or numbness in the affected area.

This can be a result of the daily, repeated stress put on the spine or brought about by aging.  

There are two common spinal disc disorders:  degenerative disc disease and a herniated disc.

Degenerative disc disease is brought on by aging, In this, spinal discs dry out, causing loss of flexibility or shock absorption ability. The resulting wear-and-tear can cause insufferable axial or referred pain.

RELATED: 5 Exercises To Improve Flexibility

Degenerative Disc Disease


In contrast, a herniated disc leads to radicular pain, where nerve roots can be stimulated and thereby aggravated. Its symptoms include numbness, weakness  and tingling along the nerves.

It’s most important that you decipher where the pain is coming from, so seeking the advice or care of a health professional is key to determining its cause.

For instance, a disc that herniates in the lower end of your spine will cause pain along the sciatic nerve, which can be felt through the back of the leg, while and a cervical disc injury is commonly radiated through the arm.

3. Muscle-Related Pain in the Upper/Lower Back

Upper and lower back pain can be the result of different factors, thus determining its cause is difficult.

Note that the sternum is its own center of gravity in your upper torso, so any nerve that may be pinched or aggravated in this region can expand outwards into your arms, legs, chest, and even belly.

Your thoracic region, involving the upper and middle back, also has a variety of muscles and ligaments that can be pulled or strained due to overexertion or incorrect posture.

Person lifting heavy object

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However, it’s more usual for everyday lower back and neck pain to appear, as the bones and muscles are used more often than those in the upper torso.

But there are also other things that can cause pain apart from muscle strain. These include gallbladder disease, cancer, or a respiratory infection.

4. Poor Nerve Length in the Back

Poor nerve length isn’t the first thing doctors or therapists look at that when there is consistent back pain, but it should be included in the list.

The spine is comprised of 31 pairs of spinal nerves, which elongate and exit the spinal cord through areas between the vertebrae.

That’s why peripheral nerves that extend outward from the spine to the rest of the body can create pain centers in any number of areas, even if the injury or damage is only at the spine or at surrounding tissues.

However, if you have poor nerve length, bad extensions can disrupt the operations of sensory receptors, causing pain in unlikely places.

Sensory nerves are especially susceptible to causing pain, so determine the epicenter of your injury or strain to figure out where your discomfort is arising from.  

5. Motor-Control Pain

Motor nerves are responsible for muscular reactions and movement. That’s why muscle aches and strains are as common as the pain on spinal nerves.

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Thankfully, certain exercises can restore the coordination and efficiency of your muscles, equally helping the spine and preventing pain.

What’s important is you continue doing your daily activities and you tap multiple muscle groups to alleviate muscle pain. With the guidance of a professional, increasing your muscle movements is a step in stopping back and leg pain from progressing.

staff assisting patient

Moreover, seek help from a physical therapist or health professional before making any serious changes to your daily routine.