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Hamstring Pain in Radiculopathy?

Lala329LLala329 Posts: 283

I was wondering if anyone with L5 or S1 nerve root irritation has leg pain symptoms that feel similar to a hamstring strain?

I'm curious because I have developed radicular symptoms into my leg, but the thigh portion going down the back of my leg feels like a pulled hamstring- the hamstring cramps when I stand on my leg, and walking aggravates it. It definitely feels more like a pulled muscle than what I typically think of as typical burning and shooting nerve pain. I do have the more typical shooting and burning pain in my lower leg and foot so I was just curious if the hamstring sensation is normal? I had initially thought it was a hamstring injury until this foot business came on.

I do have cysts on both the L5 and S1 nerve roots so my doctor thinks this is just a temporary nerve root aggravation, but I am a little thrown by the hamstring symptoms and did not know if it was typical of radiculopathy.


  • Hi Lala,

    I had this pre-surgery along w/ the burning, shooting, electric jolts down the leg and into the foot. If you look at a dermatome chart, some of the S1 nerve pathway goes down the back of the thigh. Sometimes heat helped, sometimes ice eased it some - does the doc feel the cysts will shrink on their own?

  • I have experienced hamstring pulls & cramps with my sciatica. Also what was painful when the PM Dr. touched my hip where the sciatica nerve can irritate and goes along the back and side of the leg. I recently had an injection to the hip the S1 joints and the upper butt where the sciatic nerve is along with an epidural that is relieving some pain. The nerve irritates the muscle and can cause cramping but the muscle relaxants help me. I hope you get some relief from the pain. I also use heat on the muscle. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I get that too, and my calf also. I would swear sometimes it is a muscle problem, but I know it isn't. Sciatica is wonderful isn't it.
  • and I also get that feeling in my hamstring and in my calf like vermithrax, and just like you said it totally feels muscular but I know its not. There are times when I am limping around because it feels like my calf is tightened up but when I get it massaged it doesn't hurt like muscles would in that situation. So sorry that you are feeling like that right now.
  • get the calf pain. My doc says that it is from compensating in the way that we walk because of the back pain if that makes sense.
  • I thought I had pulled my hamstring on holiday last year, the pain was dreadful, went to my Doctors and was told "it's sciatica" and was given painkillers. The pain got worse so was sent for Phsio, this didnt help and after having a massage my pain was even worse, and had even gone from hamstring to outer leg and into foot, I couldnt sleep with pain.was eventually sent for a MRI scan, found out I have posterior disc bulge at L5/S1, degenerative disc at L2/3 with a disc prolapse and impingement to nerve roots.
    The consultant who checked the MRI scan as said Urgent spinal surgical referal advised. I attended hospital this week and chatted to a member of the spinal team who took my history,she is going to speak to my consultant and getting back to me.
  • Thanks for the replies. I also appreciate the advice on what to do for pain relief. I've been treating this like a hamstring pull and getting *really* concerned about the fact that it's not getting better, so it's helpful to know that the muscular symptoms are pretty typical for nerve root irritation.

    To answer pfd's question: No, unfortunately the cysts will not shrink on their own, but we are really hoping that whatever has happened with the cysts to aggravate the nerve root is just temporary. Right now I'm in that horrible "wait and see" period we are all familiar with, waiting to determine whether the leg symptoms will resolve...
  • Back in the olden days, my husband, who is a runner, kept rubbing the back of his thigh, without realizing he was doing it. Finally he said he felt like his hamstring was really tight. This went on for several months with no other "symptoms" whatsoever. He kept running and stretching, but the pain felt like a muscle strain/pull.

    That all changed when on the morning of Christmas Eve, he started to get up out of bed and couldn't move. We assumed it would go away so didn't go to the hospital or call a doc. By evening when everything was closing early, we realized he had a problem. Luckily our neighbor is an anesthesiologist, who had been in family practice. When he got out of emergency surgery, he came over, examined my husband and proclaimed he had something serious going on with his back. He was able to supply a few pain killers to get us through the Christmas holiday and got him an appointment with a spine specialist the next business day. MRI showed a ruptured L5-S1 disc.

    It apparently had been leaking for the preceeding months when husband thought he had a hamstring issue. He had no other symptoms of sciatic-type pain, just what felt like muscle pain.

    Quick end to story: back in the olden days, they didn't do surgery as often. My current surgeon saw him back then (17 years ago)and said he was not a candidate for surgery. So he did PT. They also didn't use steroid injections back then...so he waited for the disc to heal. By summer he was pretty much back to normal. By fall he started lightly running again...and he's still running today. He does his "back" exercises faithfully every single day, keeps a normal weight and is careful to use good body mechanics and alignment. Knock on wood, he's avoided further problems all this time.

    Nice story...but how does it relate to you, you're wondering....When did you have your last MRI? I would think if you were having this sensation from your cysts pressing on the S1 nerve, you would have more radicular symptoms along with it.

    But let me hasten to add, there is little that is "typical" radiculopathy. It can vary so much from person to person. In my case, I get a variety of types of pain, and occasionally it switches legs...so there is always a surprise!

    Did your doc find out anything from that program on the East Coast where the specialist is located? Do you have any news??

  • Hi back Lala,

    The spiney road is definitely rough, it can be torture with the waiting & seeing. I hope that some of the suggestions to help ease the hamstring pain help and you can get some well deserved relief soon. Please keep us posted-

  • Hi.

    I pulled my hamstring 5 months ago. It took 12 weeks to heal.

    I have been back playing football for 8 weeks now, the last 2 weeks i have been experiencing chronic pain in my hamstring to the point where going from a sitting position to a standing position makes me wince due to the severity of the pain i feel. (Its like a shooting pain).
    The strange thing is i feel at my best if i run for a while.

    It is ruining my daily life though, hot baths etc are not really helping at all.

    I do have some minor pain in my back and buttocks but nothing too distressing.

    The pain in the hamstring is severe though.


  • i'm having the exact same symptoms with the occasional full leg pain or foot pain... i've been so confused by this too, it truly feels like i've torn my hamstring or glute but i can stretch those muscles with little pain to the muscle itself. my mri about a year ago showed mild bulges in l4-l5 l5-s1, the neuro thinks that now the s1 bulge may be blown.... finally have my updated mri and emg tests tomorrow. i hate to say it but i hope it is herniated all the way so i can have the discectomy and get on with my life!!!! this has become so dam frustrating!
  • I have had the same pain since my surgery in 7/10. I take either percocet or vicadin. Either one will relieve my pain.

    I also had two MRI's since the surgery just to confirm that there was no other damage. Surgeon says it is inflammation that will go away. He said that it may take up to a few years.

    Biggest thing he said was not to do anything other than normal routine activity. No lifting, bending, well, you've heard itall, too.

    Good luck, my friend.
  • I've had several "tears", so I thought, but my physiotherapists and rheumatologist were puzzled because of the length of time it took to heal (I am still dealing with pain at the top of my hamstring after six months) . On the recommendation of my rheumatologist, my G.P. has ordered an ultrasound to determine whether there was a tear in the hamstring, or whether it is enthesitis (a type of inflammation where tissue attaches to bone).

    Just when I feel as though the pain has disappeared, I can stub my toe or kick a ball, and the pain returns with a vengeance.

    I, too, have L4/L5, L5/S1 issues.

  • Hi Lala,

    I have L5/S1 herniation and the conditions you are describing are very similar to mine. My doctor told me that it is sciatica, not hamstring muscle problem.

    in November last year, I had some strange symptoms. I had an enlarged lymphatic know in my right leg, near my crotch area for one week. It was accompanied by sharp hamstring pain in my right leg and that feeling as if just strained it. Then I started having burning sensation in my feets, and the top of my right foot had very sensitive skin - could not even touch it - for about one week. Sharp pain in hamstring stopped, so did sensitive skin on top of my foot, but burning feet lasted for 2 months.
  • Surgeon now thinks that my pain may be coming from the coccyx (tailbone). Getting cortisone shot in coccyx on Tuesday. He did an x-ray of the tailbone and found that it has shifted forward, maybe from a prior accident or from surgery,

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