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Pain alternating between legs

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
Hi. So I threw my back out about a month ago and have tried to take it easy and let things go back to normal which in the past takes 4-8 weeks. Earlier this year had and MRI and EMG and told everything is normal even though this is the 5th time in 2 1/2 years I have hurt my back. I normally have lower back pain and sciatic pain that radiates under my knee and some pain and numbness in my foot on and off. So last few days I started feeling much better and decided to get a little more aggressive with excercising after feeling ok with some light jogging last few weeks and decided to practice hitting some racquetballs around the court for 40 minutes. I felt fine running around the court and thought everything was fine but when I got home I started having sciatic pain down my right leg. Urgh. Never had pain in this leg b4! Today its worse and my typical stabbing lower back pain is also in full force. The sciatic pain in my right leg is actually different in that its down my thigh and into my calf and it feels more like pinching. I can still walk unlike with my left leg where it has me limping when its really lit. I am concerned I just set myself up with a reinjury of my back. I am hopeful I will feel better tomorrow but this pain in my opposite leg has me a little freaked out. Just wondering how common it is to have alternating leg pain like this for those other sciatic pain sufferers out there!??



  • The pain in my legs do alternate. You really may want to contact your doc if it continues. Especially if the pain goes all of the way down your leg to your foot. Sometimes it takes other diagnostic testing in order to get a diagnosis. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • My sciatica goes from left to right and I can pretty much set my calendar by it as it changes almost daily.

    I pretty match your story exactly in that initially my sciatica was quite light and I would get better but once I pushed it a bit much and than started with constant pain and inability to do much walking at all.

    I would go to a doc and get an MRI done as while I am not a doctor my guess is that you may have a very mild herniation like me. You like myself may be one of the unlucky ones where the herniation looks so small that it should not bother you but unfortunately it does.

    Try the mini-cobra this week as it can not make things worse and see if you feel any relief. If you do that is probably a good indication that there is something there.


  • Thanks for the responses. jsirabella I had an MRI and EMG on my left leg and to my shock I was told both showed nothing wrong. He did say I had a bulge in my l5 area but it was too small to be touching nerves. Maybe that is the issue. My PT saw the report and agreed with my doc that it was a clean MRI and that it was probably not causing the trouble tho. My doc said he could give me an injection in s1/l5 area since he thinks that is where the issue would be but I have held off since I have read these things can make things worse and I don't want to take the risk if we don't even know exactly where the problem lies. Do you think I should go for it? What's the mini-cobra? I have been doing some exercises my PT gave me but I really can't say they have helped. In fact I am wondering if they have made things worse for me since I never have had alternating pain before. One exercise is where I get on all fours and pull my abdominal muscles into my body and then still on all fours I do a stretch back, like the way a cat stretches on all fours. I am coming to the conclusion the only thing that helps is time and taking Aleve every day no matter what I try to do to make my recovery move along faster.


  • I am not a doctor so please understand you should talk to your doctor and honestly reading your post I would even check another doctor as I am having a similar experience to you just I am about 6-8 mos ahead of you.

    I had EMG test very early which showed nothing as they did the test too early. As far as your MRI I do not understand why they did your left leg and talking about L5 and S1. To see your L5 and S1 you need to do an MRI of your lumbar area hence the "L" in L5.

    But anyway they did see a bulge as they did in mine and it was ever so tiny. And I am sure you heard that there is no way that this little bulge can generate that much discomfort..yada yada yada (I am sorry but thinking about my past 6 mos pisses me off.). They tell you do PT and you should be fine. I am surprised they did not diagnose pirformis syndrome as that is always the first thing they grab for. My frank opinion here is that your situation if like mine and it does sound that way will get much worse in the next few months even with the PT. My advice to you right now is to get a series of epidurals probably 2 atleast will be needed. Than go back to your PT person and say I want to learn all the McKenzie exercises and I want a series of other exercises that will strengthen my lower abs please. Than just do those...

    I will say again I am not a doctor so please take my advice with a grain of salt but all I can say is that I have been there and in a sense still there. The cat/camel exercise they are making you do is fine but at this point will probably push the "bulge" against the nerve more. You need now to get it away from the nerve so it moves up into your back.


    Here is the article to start with and changed my life. MY PT person was terrible and until I got these exercises it was always getting worse. Start with figure 1 and do it every 2 hours. Really try and stretch that back up and hold it. You will even feel the pain move up as you do it.

    I would also not become completely inactive as I did and that was the worse thing also. Stick with the core/mckenzie and walking till you really start to feel normal. If you have what I have you are in for a long haul. Get mentally prepared.



    Sorry but your doc should recommend some meds and you can use them as you need them. I have found a muscle relaxer like Soma works ok for me. Aleeve does not really do much unless I take like 3-4 of them and I will not do that unless I can not walk at all. But I have found some pretty good. In addition you should look into flector patches or sodium diclofenic. I have better luck with the patches for inflammation. If you have the tingles or electric shooting sensation stuff like Lyrica can work well. Honestly the best is not to take all as these meds do not heal you but they may allow you to do PT which will heal you long term...just the RIGHT PT.

  • I like the exercise you recommended already jsirabella. Thank you. I did have a lumbar spine MRI sorry for the confusion. I have been dealing with this on and off since April 2007 and have seen all kinds of doctors, chiros, and this is my third round of PT but at a different place. I am fine for 6 months and then do some sort of awkward lifting and set it off. I only just figured out the lifting part of the equation as the cause of my problem this year. Why do you recommend the epidurals so strongly? I have been trying to avoid getting once since its not clear where the issue is and I have also read some stories on this site that have me worried about the shot making the pain worse! My pain is pretty much managable with the Aleve but after a month straight any level of continuous pain would drive a person nuts. I am trying to avoid too much intervention with drugs at this point but might go for the shot if this doesn't let up soon. It was getting better but I might have set myself back a few weeks now with the over activity I started. Anyway, your post was really great. Thanks again.
  • are usually done as a diagnostic tool. If you get an injection in a certain area and you do get relief from the injection it can be a good indication that is the area causing your pain. I was also put through the ringer with PT, etc. The PT actually made my pain worse. I kept up with it anyway until the day that they put the tens unit on me and I realized that I was completely numb in my left butt cheek. I could not feel anything even on the highest setting. I also had already had an MRI that was fairly unremarkable before PT. After the numbness presented itself my therapist refused to treat me and sent me back to my doc. After a long painful road I finally found a PM doc that did the injections which were successful short term. The fact that it was successful led my doc to believe that a rhizotomy (nerve burn) would be helpful. It was. I got by for a few years having a rhizotomy every 9-12 months. Next step was a discogram as my doc strongly believed that I had an issue with my disc. Long story somewhat shorter I ended up having annular tears at multiple levels. They did not show on the MRI and were only found by a discogram. So don't be discouraged by the MRI looking clear. My doc said that only the really bad stuff shows up on MRIs. If your doc suggests the epidural it may really be worth trying. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • A few things...

    I agree and disagree with JJ. Any kind of shot of cortizone/steroid even and epidural will not cure you and is used for diagnostic purpose and/or to reduce the pain and give you the strength to do PT. Steroids will reduce the inflamation but that alone is not the cure. In the end PT or surgery is the only way to take care of these spine issues long term. From what I have heard though from several doctors an epidural is not a focused shot, it was described to me as an a-bomb effect so you should feel better no matter what. Now in my case after my 2nd EMG the doc said it is coming from the L5 and the PM doc used it to give more focus to the epidural. But the medicine is so strong that it will affect your whole lower body. In your case the shot the doc is recommending is more focused so give more of a diagnostic result. But I would honestly still recommend an epidural as it will give you more medicine to help you better deal with the PT and will probably mean less Aleeve. Speak with your doctor.

    Next there is a mental component you have to accept and that took me several months and the PM doctor to really drive it home. You see I was an avid cyclist/weight trainer. Giving up either to me was just not an option. I believed they were always my friends and would cure me. Well I finally accepted after the PM doc said so and from walking with a cane for about a month that I am sick/injured. Infact I am very sick. The problem is we can not visually see it and even the docs/mri say it is not so bad. You would not go and play raquetball if you had a broken ankle in a cast. We have to treat this the same. We are in recovery mode and this is much worse than a broken ankle. Mother Nature or the Creator (depending on your point of view) seems to have built a spine that while amazing has quite a few flaws IMHO. It takes forever to heal as it does not get much blood so an injury can cause it to press on a nerve which is quite painful and given the delicate nature of these nerves can cause pain in areas nowhere near the injury. You have to get used to this and accept it. The past is the past and this is a new life.

    Some simple rules to follow which I learned the hard way.

    1) Never carry anything on your back. If you have a backpack, get rid of it. Everything should be carried at your sides by your arms not around your hips (God no). Also try not to lift anything heavier than 20 lbs only in extreme conditions and when you have too, slowly and with focus bending at the legs and lifting. Forget anything over 50lbs in all cases.

    2) Try to make your movements more fluid. Do not make jerky motions. Slow down and make them fluid. No sudden twists or turns

    3) Do atleast 60 mins of PT for atleast 5 days a week. Again try and find the program that works for you. IMHO the link is a great start and than try and add a remove things based upon how your body reacts. Also the most basic thing in life is walking, try and walk atleast 20 minutes or more in that 60 mins. That is a must unless it causes too much discomfort.

    4) Never sit for more than 60 mins at a time. You may say that is not a problem. May not be a problem but it is pushing the bulge in the wrong direction.

    5) Focus on posture. When you sit, walk, move...always think about it. Next the core must be rock hard. That is the most important area right now for you. Even when you are not exercising it, try and hold your core tight without having to breath. Just keep doing that every so often while you sit. See how long you can hold it without making a big effort.

    6) Be mentally strong and do not let the people or the situation get you down. The pain no matter what level on a daily basis will make you batty and is why you need the breaks the epidurals can give you. In the past riding my bike from NYC to Boston in less than 2 days was not an issue, now walking for more than 30 minutes is a big achievement. The past is gone. Drop the ego when you are around your people. Remember the above and do not push yourself beyond what you know you can do to just show everyone you are ok. You are not ok.

    During my last shot I had the assistant talk to me and give me that look with the tilted head and snide smile of oh how bad for you, you are so young. I looked her in the eyes and said do not feel sorry for me madam, I am younger than you and will get better and do not worry we all end up in the same place at the end just some are closer in age than others. She was obviously older than me. Suddenly the pity look left her face...go and figure...lol. I do not need their pity and I will use it to make myself angry and more focused on recovery. My first PT was like that and I just could not deal with it, that is not my personality. I notice how people will use my issues to make themselves feel better about their own situation. I was considered the healthiest person in the office but never cared, I just had fun. Now I have this person in my office come into my room several times to say, hey now I am the healthiest in the office. After the 3rd time, I made sure she would not say that again to me...

    Like I said this is a long haul and I disagree with your doc as I disagreed with my docs and they all finally believed that the issue is coming from the tiny bulge. Like in the case of JJ there is probably something deeper going on there and we will eventually find out or be lucky enough to outrun it.

    On a side note I was thinking of a discogram myself as I saw a brochure in my PM office. I decided not to do it when my neurosurgeon said that they do not do that any longer. I may still get it but trying to avoid more pain and shots. I have become a human pin cushion this year.


  • You guys rock. I really appreciate the input. I got rid of my PT guy today. I'm tired of being treated like a number at these places and they really aren't helping me anyway. I made an appointment for next week for an injection but I may cancel it if I get back to where I was before I reinjured myself last weekend which was well on my way to getting better. What other exercises do you recommend right now and also for core muscle work? I've been doing #2 off the list you provided from the Spine Health link and I feel like it's helping. I've done some core stuff in the past but frankly it still didn't stop me from hurting my back. For me, it comes down to carrying weight and doing manual labor. I'm leaving the hard work to my wife from now on. Yuck yuck. I wish you guys a pain free life and thanks again for taking the time to give me some great advice.

  • As far as increasing your core strength, all the exercises that you pick should not involve any type of a crunch motion. There are many exercises where you lay flat on the floor and basically pull your legs up into your chest. Any of these type will involve lower ab engagement. The other thing to keep in mind you are not just trying to build your abs but also your para-spine muscles (not sure if correct name, small muscles). Any exercise where you are involving a prone position should involve those muscles. Also to make these exercises tough just hold them longer and longer.

    This is not as easy as you think as you really have to engage those muscles which will take time to learn and the strength to grow. For now I would really stick with those exercises and 20-30 minutes of walking. Do not go overboard...these exercises are to help in recovery not push your body like your past workouts. They are meant to make you feel better. Remember that.

    Later when you are ready and I am not and you should not try but roman chair, leg raises and leg crunches will be good. But again first start with the basics till you really feel 100%. This healing will take more time than you know.

  • hey budd, what exactly do you mean by crunch motion?
  • Any movement like a typical ab crunch...meaning you are bending your chest into your knees and entire torso is raises off the floor and the worst would be to add a twisting motion. (God No)

    Now if you want to work your upper abs with no crunch that can be done the way they have it here where basically you just raise the upper torso but your lower torso never leaves the ground. I believe in our cases we should not use swiss balls as it requires to much stability as the floor is the best bet till we are 100%. Later push down exercises involving weights or even bicep curls can engage the core quite a bit!


    My former life has been helping with this stuff...
  • jsirabella what was your former life? I'm curious, what doctor speciality have you found to be most helpful and knowledgable about your back issues? I really have yet to find a doctor worth his/her salt. Even the guy giving me the shot, a psyiatrist, is telling me my MRI is normal and the little bulge shouldn't be the problem. Yeesh.
  • I was considered to be quite the avid weight lifter and cyclist. I actually was on a team and was hoping to make a career at it. I did train people on a regular basis and was paid for the services on many occasions. I woke up pretty much 5 days a week at 430am to be out on the road by 5am on cycling days and than off-season in the gym. It was something I took quite seriously so I learned as much as I could not just for cycling. My coach won the nationals in Hungary.

    But now that seems like a very distant memory as I thought I could never get this hurt from a small fall. I mean from 200 miles a week to hard to walk 30 minutes....hmm. Well like I said a former life where I wish to have half the abilities I once had. I believe I am starting to see a light.

    But as far as doctors go that is a real tough one. You see every one of them will go with what they know..meaning ortho goes with PT, spinal ortho goes with some PT/shots and neurosurgeons go straight to surgery. They go with what they know.

    In the end the most important thing is are they treating you like a human being and listening and not just a number. I have found that to be best and for me my 2nd ortho and neurosurgeon seem to best.

    BTW, I would throw in my accupunturist also. In the beginning not much difference but now I can feel much better right after the session.

    Find the docs who you trust and treat you like more than just a case number...and will not let you get a word in edge wise.

  • I agree finding the right doc is imp. I also experienced that whatever doctor you go to will suggest what their speciality is. The NS leans towards surgery unless you find a real good one. After reading some of the post surgical experiences in this site, I pray to god to keep me away from taht
  • My experience with the little bulge was the same so do not be surprised that most of the docs will search and search before they re-consider it. As it does not match what they were taught. I understand as they want to be thorough also and I honestly feel that there is a 90% chance you will simply recover in time PT or not.

    The docs really hang their hat you may say by that one statistic. The statistic being that 90 - 95% will never need surgery. So they are willing to take their time unless in extreme cases as 90-95% will just heal in good time.

    If you look at most posts, most docs will not touch you with a knife unless you are at the point where you can not get out of bed. They know that if they did the surgery earlier it could probably mean less recovery time but they also know that so few of us will ever reach that point. Ofcourse too in cases where the herniation is so large and obvious they will move much quicker.

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