Herniated disc weak leg is a symptom most often associated with nerve compression of a lumbar or sacral nerve root, typically at L4, L5 or S1. The process which usually creates this weakness is known as foraminal stenosis and describes a pinched spinal nerve root due to a herniated disc pressing into the neuroforaminal space.
In other patients, spinal stenosis can also be responsible for weakness in the legs and may exist almost anywhere in the spine, making a valid diagnosis a difficult to attain proposition.
This explorative essay will provide facts on the causes of weakness in one or both legs related to a plethora of disc abnormalities. The discussion will include the reasons why many bulging discs are mistakenly implicated in causing weakness and chronic pain in the legs.
Weakness in the legs can be described as objective or subjective:
Subjective weakness is by far the most commonly reported type, describing a general feeling of weak muscles and the inability to perform as usual. In subjective weakness, the muscles may feel weak, but are actually still performing fine upon diagnostic testing.
Objective weakness means that muscular deficits actually exist, making the leg far less capable of performing normally.
The difference between these 2 forms of weakness may help to diagnose the causative condition, as long as the physician understands the basis of comparison and takes the time to perform a complete hands-on physical evaluation and symptom correlation.
It is worth mentioning that when foraminal stenosis is the working causative theory, weakness should be the last symptomatic expression to develop, usually after pain and paresthesia. In central stenosis diagnoses, weakness may occur progressively or acutely and may or may not be preceded or followed by other various symptomatic complaints.
Weakness which is subjective is often accompanied by pain, tingling and partial or subjective numbness. These instances may be caused by a herniation, although there are certainly many more logical explanations for these subjective symptoms in some patients.
Objective weakness is often experienced in combination with objective numbness and has a far greater chance of being related to an actual structurally-based nerve compression event. Of course, there is the possibility for exceptions to both generalities, but these are typically few and far between.
Alternative reasons for leg weakness may include muscular deficits, muscle imbalances, piriformis syndrome, sacroiliac joint concerns, localized injury, sciatic nerve dysfunction and disease processes, such as diabetic neuropathy.
Weakness in the legs is often blamed on a herniated disc, just like back pain, tingling and numbness are also blamed on intervertebral disc issues. When verified evidence of a pathological process can be produced during evaluation, these disc conditions often turn out to be the actual source of symptoms. Other times, these conditions are mistakenly diagnosed, leading to the horrible treatment statistics so common in the back and neck pain industry.
Very few chronic symptomatic complaints are the direct result of a disc bulge or a degenerated disc and even these few symptomatic cases typically resolve on their own without any special care or treatment necessary.
If your chronic disc pain has not responded to appropriate care, you owe it to yourself to reconsider the validity of the diagnosis, especially before agreeing to any surgical therapy option. To increase your chances for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, be sure to include your neurologist in the evaluation process.