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Bilateral Leg Pain - tight muscles


I'm new to the forum and would appreciate some feedback on leg pain caused by lumbar stenosis. I'm 74. Have had bilateral leg pain due to very tight quads and hamstrings for MANY years. It's not vascular. Diagnosed with lumbar stenosis at three levels L2/L3, L3/L4, L4/L5. I'm totally sedentary. Sit MANY hours daily on chair at computer.

Recently (March-June) had shooting pains down hamstrings followed by stabbing pain (July) in lumbar region with Level 10 pain. Neurosurgeon says MRI shows free fragment (not floating around) has broken off and extruded at L3/L4 -- a new condition. He has ordered a fresh MRI but says early indications are I may need surgery - combination of removing disc fragment and opening up the stenosis.

I have absolutely no doubt that the shooting pains in leg and stabbing pains in spine (which seem to be improving) are/were related to the stenosis and disc condition. However, I'm thinking the painful quad and hamstring tightening which I've had for years are unrelated to the stenosis but caused by physical inactivity. This is just a theory on my part. I've had PT and chiro. Nobody has suggested the possibility that my muscular leg pains might not be caused by the stenosis.

I've not found a good description of the kind of leg pain that can be caused by lumbar stenosis. I've seen descriptions of "dull, deep and achy" but no description of bilateral muscle tightness and pain caused by stenosis. Since the shooting leg pains and stabbing lumbar have stopped (for now at least), I don't want to undergo surgery if the pain from muscular tightness in the quads and hamstrings is happening independent of the spine problems. Would appreciate any comments or references on this matter.

Thanks very much.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 08/05/2014 - 3:17 AM

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • My pre-surgery diagnosis - Moderate to severe bilateral stenosis and moderate central stenosis at L4/L5 and a partially collapsed disk at L4/L5 without bulging [due to Degenerative Disc Disease], along with multiple bone spurs[osteoarthritis throughout the spine]. See my signature at the bottom for more details.

    The pain was so intense after standing up for 10 or 15 minutes I used a stool to cook dinner and I started using a wheelchair when going into stores or during times where long walks were required for the last 6-12 months pre-surgery). For a few months before surgery I also used a cane. I had read some on here where it had helped people relieve some of the stress on the nerves, and it did help me some.

    Im 26 yrs old. Just have bad genes. : )

    The pains I experienced before surgery came and went until the last month before surgery. During that time its was pretty much at a level 8-10 constantly. I had put off being on pain meds until necessary, except for flare ups, but regretted that when it became so intense so suddenly. My leg symptoms the month before surgery and off and on before that - Shooting pain down the sciatic nerves(which leave the spine at L4/L5 level) which sometimes were constant or depended on how I was positioned. I also had tingling and numbness(which I didnt even realize how bad until I saw the surgeon).

    I was in the ER 3 times in the 4 weeks before seeing my neurosurgeon for the first time to review my MRIs and he started helping me with pain control. I had surgery one month after the initial visit. The worst of the pains were stabbing pains at all different areas in my legs. It felt like a butcher knife(about 2 inches long in some places) had been stuck into my leg. The pain would come and go, but was very intense and hard to deal with. I took Gabapentin to deal with the stabbing/shooting nerve pain in the back and legs, but toward the end it didn't help much. I was on 600mg 3x a day, which is a LOT. I also had to be put on oxycodone/tylenol for the month before surgery which I took every day, and Valium to help with my tight muscles. I had a muscle in my shoulder that was a constant knot even with muscle relaxers(the valium is the only thing that helped).

    I would think it would definitely be possible that your tight muscles in the legs could be cause by the stenosis. Im not sure what nerves leave the spine at L2/L3 and L3/L4, but I know that at L4/L5 the sciatic nerves that run to the legs leave the spine. If the nerves going to your legs are affected, I would imagine that there could be many different types of things that it causes. For example all the different types of nerve pain I experienced.

    I regret not getting surgery sooner. I had a microforaminotomy(removes less bone that foraminectomy) without fusion. The nerve pain can become permanent if the nerves are damaged by the stenosis enough. Mine completely went away, and I couldnt be happier. I was so relieved when it went away completely. I was scared that it wouldnt. It took a bit of time for it to resolve, but it was completely gone by post-op month 2. My neurosurgeon explained that nerves heal very slowly.

    Hope this helps some!! You'll be in my prayers! Spinal stenosis and the treatments can be a tough road.

    (I wrote this quickly, so Im sorry if it is hard to follow or has mistakes. I will come back and edit when I have time. Thanks!)
    Age - 26
    D.D.D. changes in spine L1-S1
    Spinal Stenosis
    (Mod. to Severe Central Canal Stenosis & Mild to Mod. Bilateral Forminal Stenosis @ L4/L5)
  • Thanks so much Kelsey26. You've really been through the ringer. My severe pains have subsided (for now). My endocrinologist, after many years of knowing about my leg pain, reviewed the latest MRIs and just volunteered that my pain may be induced from the Crestor statins I take for cholesterol. He'd been monitoring blood CPK levels for many years against rhabdomyolosis (caused by statins) but told me that CPK only checks for actual muscle damage. It doesn't measure muscle pain. So...I may have severe lumbar stenosis (no doubt about that) with my bilateral leg pain caused by the statins. The stenosis caused shooting pains down the hamstrings but that was sporadic during a period of a few weeks upon twisting and spine extension. The muscle tightness and pain has been going on for many years. So holding my breath and hoping the neurosurgeon will recommend conservative treatment after seeing my very latest MRI and hearing about the endo's statin remark. The latest MRI (this week) did not show a disc fragment. That means the radiologist, who just finished residency a year ago, either missed it, or the neurosurgeon, who's been at it for 29 years, was in error when he told me there was a disc fragment after looking at an earlier MRI.
  • I hope the disc fragment is gone and you can have conservative treatment :-) Best of Luck! That was great info from your Endo about the Statins.
    Let us know what your Neuro says.
    Take care and God Bless,
    Mary Anne
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