Possible Causes of Low Back or Leg Pain

The symptoms in your back or leg may be due to pressure on a nerve. This pressure may be caused by a damaged disk or by abnormal bone growth. Either way, you may feel pain, burning, tingling, or numbness. If you have pressure on a nerve that connects to the sciatic nerve, pain may shoot down your leg.

Side view of male figure showing lumbar spine anatomy and sciatic nerve.

Pressure from the disk

Constant wear and tear can weaken a disk over time and cause back pain. The disk can then be damaged by a sudden movement or injury. If its soft center starts to bulge, the disk may press on a nerve. Or the outside of the disk may tear, and the soft center may squeeze through and pinch a nerve.

Top view of lumbar vertebra with damaged disk pressing on nerves.

Pressure from bone

As a disk wears out, the vertebrae right above and below the disk start to touch. This can put pressure on a nerve. Often, abnormal bone (called bone spurs) grows where the vertebrae rub against each other. This can cause the foramen or the spinal canal to narrow (called stenosis) and press against a nerve.

Top view of lumbar vertebra and disk showing bone spur pressing on spinal nerve.

Other causes

Back pain can be caused by many other things. Some of these can be serious. If you have blood flow problems, a history of cancer, or constant pain despite your activity level or position, it's important to see your healthcare provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Campellone MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
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