Leg pain and lower back issues – what’s the connection?

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With as much as we carry, bend, and twist in our daily lives, it’s no surprise that the muscles and nerve endings around the hip and lower back often take a beating. Leg pain and lower back issues are usually signs that one of these joints needs a break. Luckily, stretching is an easy way to give your limbs the relief they need without taking time off from work or school.

In this post, we’ll brush up on some common causes of leg pain which might be holding up your lower back too.

What is the connection between leg pain and lower back pain?

Leg pain usually indicates one of three things: injury, muscle strain, or tendinitis.  

  • Tendinitis is an inflammation of the connective tendons, and it usually occurs when the tendon is overused or damaged. Causes for this tension include overuse (such as running or biking) or sudden pressure on the tendon (such as twisting an ankle).
  • Similar to other chronically strained muscles, it’s common for lower back pain (and other similar pains) to be caused by weakness in one of these muscles, which transfers over to the spine. Weak muscles in the hips or lower back can cause the spine to work extra hard to compensate. As a result, your spine gets overworked and put at risk for injury.
  • Other times, leg pain can be caused by stress on other joints in the body. Stress on the knee, ankle or lower back due to another foot or hip problem can drag on all of these joints and cause pain.

Most leg pain can be traced back to one of the three common causes of injury mentioned above. There’s a reason why many people call it “runner’s knee,” after all. If you feel the familiar twinges and aches in your leg, don’t hesitate to evaluate what caused them, whether it’s from an injury or overuse. Even if you’re not sure which it is, take some time off from doing too much in your chosen sport or activity until you can determine what that is.

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You might also want to consider how ergonomic your workstation, home office, and other daily activities are for you at work and home. Many people have pain that could be avoided simply by making small adjustments to their daily activities.

It could be as easy as switching to a standing or sitting desk depending on how you do your work, getting a friend to help you move heavy things, taking walks at lunch, getting a better ergonomic chair, or even purging some of the junk from your home because it’s weighing you down.

How can leg pain be relieved?

In the case of minor leg pain, you might be able to ease some of those aches and pains with some simple exercises. Check out these three:

1. The isometric (static) heel pain stretch

Isometric stretches rely on the principle that muscles and tendons shorten as they’re stretched – it’s called a “contract-relax” response – but we don’t often notice we’re doing them. To activate isometric stretch, begin by placing one hand on your hip (or wherever you feel your knee pain) and slowly move your foot forward until you feel a gentle stretch without any noticeable change in tension or tightness in the muscle or tendon. Be sure to keep your foot pointed in the same direction throughout the stretch and be sure you’re using good posture: bring your head and chest up and back, not forward or down. Hold the position for about 10 seconds and don’t forget to breathe.

2. The supine hip flexor stretch 

This is a simple standing hamstring stretch that lets you relieve tension in the lower back while strengthening the muscles in the front of your thigh that flex backward when you bend them (the hip flexors). Simply start off by standing up straight, placing one hand on your hips, and slowly moving one foot forward until you feel a gentle stretch in your hamstring. Be sure to keep your foot pointed in the same direction throughout the stretch. Hold the position for about 10 seconds and don’t forget to breathe.

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3. The standing quadriceps stretch

The quadriceps muscle group consists of four muscles that make up your front thigh, including your rectus femoris (your deepest lower back muscle), vastus medialis (your top inner thigh muscle), vastus lateralis (part of your outer thigh), and vastus intermedius (the middle front thigh muscle). The best way to stretch these muscles is through a standing side-lying hip flexor stretch, or “bridge.

Treatment

You can ease leg pain by creating a stretch that you can’t do on your own. If you sit at a desk every day and your lower back and legs feel sore in the morning, consider switching to a standing or sitting position for your daily work. When sitting, make sure not to lean too far forward. A good wireless keyboard and mouse might be helpful in this case as well.

You could also consider purchasing an ergonomic office chair such as the ones found here and here  (these two are affiliate links). An ergonomic office chair will allow you to tilt it into different positions, which will effectively loosen up the muscles in your back and hips without putting unnecessary pressure on them.

There are also medical spine devices used for spine surgeries, do not forget to check them out. Premia Spine, a medical spine device manufacturer, has a range of tested devices that proved their effectiveness on a list of surgical cases.  

Conclusion

Leg pain and lower back pain are common, but they can be easily treated. The key is to determine what is causing the pain and treat it accordingly. Most people recover from leg pain quickly by simply adjusting the way they sit at their desks. If you’re using an ergonomic chair at work, consider using it in a standing position in the morning instead of sitting in a regular office chair. On a side note, if you’re a runner and your knees hurt, your feet might be going too fast. Take some time to learn to walk correctly before running, or you’ll end up with knee pain or shin splints.

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