Chronic Leg Pain

What is chronic leg pain?

Chronic back and leg pain is described as pain that has been felt in the back or leg for six months or longer. Pain is most often located in the lower back, but it may extend to other areas, such as the thighs, calves, and feet.

What are the causes?

Chronic back and leg pain can result from a number of spinal conditions, including:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Lumbar disc herniation
  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Epidural fibrosis
  • Arachnoiditis

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of chronic back and leg pain can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely disabling. You may feel a sharp or stabbing pain, a burning sensation, or a dull muscular ache. Affected areas may feel tender or sore to the touch and the pain may increase with movement.

What are the treatments?

Fortunately, for those who suffer from chronic pain, there are many available treatments. Doctors often try medication first. Other options include physical or psychological therapy, surgery, nerve blocks, or medical devices like Medtronic neurostimulators and drug pumps.

Talk to your doctor about the right pain treatment for your chronic pain. Not all treatments may be applicable to your type of pain. Treatments include:

MEDICATION

Doctors often try medication first. Because each person responds differently to medication, your doctor may try a variety of doses and drugs. Medications range from over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and acetaminophen, to anti-inflammatory steroids and stronger pain medicines.

PHYSICAL THERAPY

Physical therapy attempts to build or recondition muscles – allowing you to move more normally and with less pain. Your doctor may recommend passive physical therapy, such as massage and applying heat/cold, or active treatments, such as exercise.

Learn more about physical therapy on back.com.

PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPY

Chronic pain can bring stress that affects you, your relationships, and your body. Psychologists may work with you on relaxation techniques and coping and self-monitoring skills.

CORRECTIVE SURGERY

Your doctor may do tests, such as MRI or CT scans, to look for the cause of your pain. If the test reveals a problem that is known to be corrected by surgery, your doctor may recommend this treatment.

Learn more about surgical options on back.com.

THERAPEUTIC NERVE BLOCKS

Therapeutic nerve blocks are local anesthetic and/or steroid injections given at the origin of pain. Nerve blocks usually provide temporary pain relief. If your pain is not managed after multiple injections, your doctor may consider other treatments.

MEDICAL DEVICES

Medical devices, such as Medtronic neurostimulators or drug pumps (targeted drug delivery systems), are surgically placed devices that modify pain signals before they reach the brain:

Neurostimulators – disrupt the pain signals traveling between the spinal cord and the brain so you may feel relief

Drug pumps – deliver pain medication directly into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord

Unlike some surgeries, these treatments are reversible. Your doctor can turn off or surgically remove the system. In addition, you can try these therapies before you receive a permanent implant.

NEUROABLATION

With neuroablation, doctors destroy (usually with heat) the nerves that serve as pathways to the brain. Neuroablation is often a last resort when other treatments have failed.

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