Do you experience back and leg pain?

Do you experience pain in the low back, buttock, and pain down the leg? This article will discuss some common causes of low back and leg pain.


The spinal vertebra in the low back have discs between each spinal bone. The spinal discs act as shock absorbers, protect the nerves of the spinal cord, and allow movement in the spine.

Although studies have shown that lumbar disc injuries account for only a small portion of low back pain complaints, lumbar disc injuries are one of the most common causes of sciatica. As the discs wear and tear, the outer layer of the disc becomes weaker and can “bulge”. If a tear develops on the outer layer of the disc, the jelly-like centre can push outward, forming a herniated disc (sometimes called a slipped disc or ruptured disc). In addition to the wear and tear on the discs, repetitive stress, trauma, and poor posture can cause the disc to bulge or herniate. The herniated disc is more likely to irritate the nerves and even compress the nerves, including the sciatic nerve.

Symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Low back pain
  • Pain with coughing and sneezing
  • Abnormal or painful standing and walking posture
  • Pain down the buttock to the foot
  • Numbness and tingling along the leg
  • Leg weakness

Lumbar spine joint irritation

The joints in the spine are called facet joints. They function to control the movement of the spinal bones. Irritation of the joints can occur from overpressure, aging, and trauma. Symptoms of lumbar spine joint irritation include:

  • Achy low back pain that is worse in the morning and with leaning backwards
  • Buttock pain
  • Pain that radiates to the groin
  • Limited ability to twist and bend

Sacroiliac joint irritation

The sacroiliac joint joins the sacrum (lowest portion of the spine) with the pelvis. The sacroiliac joints are connected to many muscles in the low back, buttock, and pelvic region. The sacroiliac joint can be irritated during pregnancy, after a fall or other traumatic event, or from arthritis. Symptoms of sacroiliac joint irritation include:

  • Pain in the low back and buttock region that is described as sharp, stabbing, and achy
  • Pain that is worse with long periods of sitting and twisting
  • Pain that radiates to the hip, back of the thigh, and down the leg

Piriformis Syndrome

The piriformis muscle is located deep in the buttock region. This muscle functions to turn the leg and foot outward, and turn the hip. The sciatic nerve travels through the buttock region and can pass beside or through the piriformis muscle, on its path down the leg to the foot. Trauma, poor posture, and overuse are some causes of irritation of the piriformis muscle. Symptoms of piriformis syndrome include:

  • Muscle spasm in the buttock region
  • Sciatica-like pain down the leg
  • Difficulty sitting for long periods of time

Treatment of Leg Pain:

Before treatment and rehabilitation can begin, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis. In addition to a physical examination and a thorough understanding of your symptoms, you may be referred for additional tests such as x-rays studies. Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing, treating, and rehabilitating injuries of the spine, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and nerves.  A correct diagnosis is important to rule out more serious conditions that may be causing your pain and symptoms. The focus of the treatment is to reduce pain, improve flexibility and strength, and increase function (standing, sitting, walking, bending, and twisting).

Your treatment by a Chiropractor may include:

  • Chiropractic treatments for the low back and pelvis, and associated muscles to improve flexibility, balance, and strength of the muscles and ligaments, and restore proper movement to the joints. Laser therapy may help reduce the inflammation and pain associated with foot injuries.
  • Specific Rehab Program. The source of your pain (disc, joint, muscle) will determine the specific rehabilitation program that you should receive. The addition of physiotherapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture to your rehab program may aid in pain relief and speed up the healing process.
  • Including specific stretches and exercises is important for healing and for preventing the problem from recurring. Your chiropractor will educate you on the best exercises for your specific injury.

Dr. Virginia Nsitem is a chiropractor specializing in laser therapy for spine, muscle, joint, and nerve injuries, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Chiropractic Sports Sciences in Canada. She may be reached at (905) 275-4993, or by email at

Stop the Pain … Before the Pain Stops You!