Living Well

Lower Back Pain and Leg Pain: When Surgery Can Help

Last updated: Dec 19, 2011



Lower Back Pain and Leg Pain

“Some cases of lower back (lumbar spine) pain and leg pain are associated with a temporary condition such as muscle strain; but lower back pain and leg pain also can be associated with more permanent problems like degenerative disc disease and/or herniated (injured) discs,” says Summit Medical Group spine surgeon Ilya Kupershtein.

“If you’ve ever had lower back pain from a muscle spasm, you know it can be intense,” says Dr. Kupershtein. “In some cases, people with muscle spasms in their back find it difficult to walk, stand, sit, and lie down comfortably. On the other hand,” he adds, “conditions such as a herniated disc or degenerated disc can be painless.”

Low back pain that radiates to the buttocks and legs is generally considered either acute pain or chronic pain.

  • Acute lower back pain and leg pain is characterized as lasting a few days to a few weeks. Often, acute lower back pain resolves on its own with rest and by avoiding the activities that caused it. In some cases, though people with acute back pain need treatment such as pain medication, ice, heat, or physical therapy
  • Chronic lower back pain and leg pain lasts for months, can flare and subside, and can potentially worsen over time. The cause of chronic lower back pain can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint. It generally requires treatment, occasionally including surgery in certain cases, to resolve

Surgical Options for Lower Back Pain and Leg Pain

If you need surgery for your lower back pain and leg pain, your spine doctor might recommend decompression surgery (microdiscectomy and laminectomy) or spinal fusion surgery.

If you have decompression surgery, your spine surgeon will remove a small portion of the bone over the nerve root. He or she also will remove tissue from your herniated disc under the nerve. This approach will enlarge the space where the nerve is located, relieve pressure on it, and allow it to heal.

In lumbar spinal fusion surgery, your spine specialist will use a bone graft and special instruments to stabilize the part of the spine (or vertebral segment) that’s causing the pain. Keeping the vertebral joint from rubbing against adjacent bone will help reduce inflammation and pain. It also will prevent more damage to the nerve.

If you have a condition in which the spinal canal narrows (spinal stenosis), your spine surgeon might recommend a decompression procedure.

You might have a serious spine condition if you have:

  • Weakness or pain in the legs
  • Severe, persistent low back that radiates to the buttocks and legs
  • Numbness and/or the sensation of pins and needles in the legs

If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately! He or she can help diagnose the cause of the problem and recommend a course of action or plan of treatment that will help you.

Spine Surgery at Summit Medical Group specializes in degenerative conditions such as disc herniation, stenosis (a narrowed spinal canal, causing pressure on spinal nerves and the spinal cord), scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine), spondylolisthesis (a slipped disc, which puts pressure on spinal nerves), and nerve compression. Dr. Kupershtein is adept at traditional as well as the most up-to-date procedures to help relieve back and leg pain associated with your spine. Whenever possible, he uses minimally invasive techniques.

For more information or to schedule an appointment,
please call
Summit Medical Spine Surgery today
at 908-277-8646.

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