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Get To The Root Of Leg Numbness Or Tingling

Authored by Dr. Colin Haines, MD. February 14, 2017

Do you have tingling and numbness that goes in your buttock, leg, or even down to your toes? While this is unfortunately a common condition, the good news is that we have answers for you!  There are many possible causes of your symptoms so a thorough and detailed exam is important in getting you back to the life you love.  Of the many causes, the following three are the most common.


The most common one we see is a pinched nerve in the low back, also commonly known as sciatica.  The signals start in the brain, shoot down the spine in the spinal cord, and keep traveling down the legs as the sciatica nerve.  The term sciatica simply means the sciatic nerve is being inflamed, and the most common location for that is in the low back.

There are many parts of the spine that can cause nerve pressure.  Sometimes it’s a herniation, or bulging outwards of the disc, which is the shock absorber of the spine.  Sometimes it’s overgrown bone spurs that are hitting the nerve.  Sometimes it’s malalignment of the bones, known as scoliosis or spondylolisthesis.  And sometimes is a fracture, or break, of the bones that are causing the symptomatic nerve pressure.

Pain from a pinched nerve may appear:

  • When sitting
  • When leg is straightened out in front
  • When your hip is flexed when
  • Sometimes when you cough or sneeze


The SI joint, or sacroiliac joint, is typically a strong and stable joint.  It’s the connection between the sacrum (the bottom of the spine) and the ilium (the pelvis which connects to the legs).  In that the joint normally has to shelter quite the load, it needs to be very sturdy.  However, instability and looseness of the joint can happen which can cause significant pain.  Typically, the pain is localized over the joint but can also cause radiating pain down the leg, since the sciatic nerve which travels down the leg can live nearby and get secondarily inflamed.  

In general, when the SI joint is lax, there is also some associated muscle weakness or imbalance that co-exists.  The associated muscular pain can also cause pain down the leg.  The hip bone is definitely connected to the leg bone in this instance!


If a nerve is compressed anywhere, it can hurt!  While the most common location is in the spine, it can happen elsewhere.  Such locations include the piriformis muscle in the buttocks, the peroneal nerve just below the knee, and the tibial nerve behind the ankle.  Nerve pressure at these spots may result in pain, numbness, and tingling starting at that spot and shooting downstream the leg.  

What can complicate the matter is that sometimes people have pressure in multiple spots in the body, such as in the low back and behind the ankle, but also multiple sites of nerve compression in the same region, such as a disc herniation at L3-4 and nerve pressure from bone spurs at L5-S1. 

Clearly, since there are so many potential sites for injury it highlights the importance of getting thoroughly assessed by a trained spinal specialist.  Don’t wait to get it checked out.  There’s no glory in trying to tough it out since prolonged nerve pressure can result in permanent damage.  The sooner we get you answers, the sooner we get you back to feeling great!  


Virginia Spine Institute’s reputation is unmatched as a world-renowned luxury destination in spinal healthcare, dedicated to providing an elevated level of concierge care for those suffering from neck and back conditions. For three decades, their proven methods have led them to dramatically improving the quality of life for over 100,000 patients, from 32 countries.

People seek care from Virginia Spine Institute because of their elite team of board-certified spine-specialized physicians offering unique approaches to safe and effective back and neck pain relief. As one of the few centers that begin treatment with non-surgical options before recommending surgery, 90% of their patients get better without spine surgery. Through a comprehensive model, Virginia Spine Institute is able to offer regenerative medicine, non-operative treatments, minimally-invasive spine surgery, and physical therapy through their team of spine specialists.

The team’s dedication to detail and patient success is a shining light in the field of spinal healthcare. As pioneers and leaders in this field, they have also accomplished many of the world’s firsts in spine surgery by using modern treatments and cutting-edge technology not offered anywhere else.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Colin Haines, MD.

Reviewed by: Dr. Colin Haines, MD.

About The Author

Dr. Colin Haines, MD

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