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Avatar universal

Lower back pain/numb lower legs

ok so I have had lower back pain for months now which goes hand in hand with numb lower legs, pain and discomfort really bad in the morning when waking, so much so I get up and have to stretch on my excercise mat to get relief. The veins in the lower legs in the morning really stand out. I saw the doctor who said it was lower back pain causing the numbness in the legs but the circulation seemed ok. I wanted a scan to see what the problem is as the pain can be bad, but he said they don't do back scans no point? The pain is often bad and I sit with a hot water bottle. I am 60 years old.
16 Responses
4851940 tn?1515698193
Unfortunately, problems in the lower spine can cause referred pain in the legs.

If you have had no imaging done to the lower spine at all, make an appointment with a different doctor at the surgery and ask for an xray of your spine and a referral to Triage, physiotherapy or a rheumatologist.
If you notice that your legs go red and feel hot, make an urgent appointment to see the doctor or the out of hours doctors, as this can be a bacterial infection.

If pain relief medications that you have are not helping, the doctor can prescribe Amitriptyline or other antidepressants that work for referred pain.

You are doing the right thing in using a hot water bottle.

Keep going to see your doctor until he does something to help you.  
They kept fobbing me off, before I insisted on being referred to a rheumatologist and since then I have been given steroid injections, acupuncture, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy.  

I would not make an appointment to see that particular doctor again.  There is a point in getting some type of imaging done.  An MRI scan would not only show the bones, but also the state of your discs and other soft tissues.

Let me know how you get on.

Best of luck.

15439126 tn?1444446763
How old's your mattress?  Even top quality ones ought to be replaced after twenty years, cheaper versions perhaps 5-10 years.  Mattresses will last longer if they're rotated & flipped from time to time (to spread the pressure from sleeping over different parts of their support system).  A saggy mattress giving poor support can contribute to bad backs.

Have you tried sleeping with a pillow under your knees when you're on your back, and between your knees when you're on your side?  That posture adjustment usually reduces the strain on your back while sleeping.

Have you asked about doing any stretching exercises?  If they work, I suggest do them daily (even, when you're not suffering).   An obus form (or folded towel) to give you better lower back support while sitting in chairs and carseats may help you in the daytime.  So long as you don't overtire your back, walking may be good for it (but do avoid getting the back muscles tired else that might set your progress back considerably).

If the back muscle spasms are causing the vertebrae to pinch the nerves leading to the legs, that certainly will cause leg pain.  

A restful protective posture you might try in bed for perhaps an hour, is propping your calves up on a box (add a pillow for comfort) so that they're about one to two feet above the bed.  Listen to music or an audiobook.  You may find afterwards substantial relief.
Avatar universal
Thanks jemma, I've tried twice now with different doctors but you're right I'm going to persist and try again, and then if no help - seems to be all the tory cut backs - I will be forced to get my own private mri done, I've got to do something was in really bad pain as soon as I woke again this morning, seems to be getting worse.
Avatar universal
Thanks scalp, I doubt a new mattress will fix the problem but it might help a bit so worth a shot buy one tomorrow. I stretch every morning using small weights and have for years, it usually helps and gives a lot of relief but for the past few weeks no relief at all the problem is getting worse. I do walk a lot and keep mobile to be honest sitting makes things worse as I seize up. I'm going to ring the doctor tomorrow and see if I can at least get an x ray, I won't hold my breath. I'm wondering if everyone over 60 gets no help anymore.
4851940 tn?1515698193
I complained about my thoracic pain to my doctor a couple of times at different times and he just pushed it under the carpet.

I went along to see a doctor with my husband for support and insisted that at least I get an xray done and a referral to a rheumatologist.  I was 62 last year.  

I have a condition called DISH and osteophytes as well as osteoarthritis everywhere else.
As you feel very stiff when not moving about for a while, you have some type of arthritis.

A xray would show any degeneration in the bones and a blood test would be able to show if you have the autoimmune arthritis called rheumatoid arthritis.

Don't give up - keep badgering your doctor until you get a confirmation of your problem.  In the meantime continue using the hot water bottle for the acute spasms, get someone to give you a massage with arnica oil, have baths with Epsom Salts.  You can buy Epsom Salts on the web.  Boots sell sea salt which is OK if you do not have any broken skin.  Radox is fine if you do not have a skin problem.  If you do decide to try Epsom Salts, put in about 2 or 3 cupfuls to your bath water and some baby oil.  Epsom Salts is very drying.  I cannot use any soap, but I am OK with Epsom Salts and baby oil.

If you have diabetes, leg pain can also be caused by nerve damage due to uncontrolled sugar levels.  As you mentioned varicose veins, that too can cause leg pains.

If you mattress is very worn, a new mattress can give some support for your back, but will not help if you already have degeneration.

It's great that you are keeping yourself as active as possible.  Exercises in the water are great too.

Best wishes.
Avatar universal
Thanks for your reply jemma an x ray sounds like a good idea and the blood test as you say I shall have to keep onto the doctor until I get some help, see if I can see another doctor when I go. I am autoimmune with antinuclear antibodies on my last blood tests but again the doctors seem disinterested with anything to do with autoimmune, I don't think they know what it is really or how to deal with it. I've had thyroid problems for 18 years now had little help. I am also going to try the Epsom salts, thank you.
4851940 tn?1515698193
Osteoporosis is not usually painful, until a bone is broken.
Osteoporosis is caused by loss of bone density and a special bone mineral density scan needs to be done to diagnose osteoporosis.  This is known as a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA, or DXA) scan.

Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis cause stiffness and pain as well as inflammation.  A normal xray will show the bones and any bone spurs that have formed.  An MRI scan will show the bones and the discs and soft tissue.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder and also affects internal organs.  Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are similar in that there is wear and tear of the bones called degeneration and the discs (the cushioning substance in between each vertebrae in the spine starts to shrink with age).  The discs can bulge or slip and press on nerves causing referred pain away from the main site.

Rheumatoid arthritis is confirmed by having a blood test to measure inflammatory markers.  

Although there still may be inflammation with osteoarthritis, the blood test inflammatory markers will be insignificant.

I doubt very much that the doctors would consider screening for osteoporosis if they will not even give a referral for a simple xray.

There is no need to take extra supplements if this is not needed.  Too much of Vitamin D can do more damage than good.
Avatar universal
Thanks scalp I will ask to get screened for osteroporosis I can see asking for tests is going to be an uphill struggle having been turned down before. The only thing they did do for me was send me to a physio who told me to stretch and bend a complete waste of time, as I excercise anyway. I think it must be down to all the cut backs that they don't want to issue scans and tests for anyone anymore. If I don't get anywhere I am contacting my mp it's getting ridiculous that people in pain like me are getting no help, and I know I'm not the only one. I bought a mattress today and am trying it out tonight hope it helps a bit.
Avatar universal
Thanks jemma wow you sound really clued up, my problem to be honest is I just don't know what is wrong only that the back pain and problems with the legs are getting worse. I've told the doctors that the first said - it's being caused by your lower back - so what can we do about it an mri? x ray? no we don't do anything about backs. Ditto second doctor no we don't do anything about backs, no point and she gave me the pysio apointment just a waste of time and all down to cut backs. Now thanks to you and others on here I feel more determined to fight my corner and will. Glad you got an x ray etc now I'm going to I am fed up with being fobbed off obviously something going on.
4851940 tn?1515698193
Unfortunately soreldean, there is not always a cure for acute and/or chronic back or other joint pains.

An xray would show up any degeneration in the spine and an MRI would show up any damage to bones, slipped, bulging discs, impingement of nerves, but sometimes there is no remedy.  

Doing the specific exercises that your physiotherapist has given you is so as to keep mobility and maintain muscle strength.  Management is by pain relief medications, acupuncture, TENS, relaxation, heat packs, cold packs, pacing your day and avoiding doing things that aggravate your condition.

Sometimes, unfortunately, we have to accept that there is no cure and that we just have to learn to management our pain as best we can.

I would suggest though, to see your doctor and remind him that your back and leg problem has got much worse and you would like to be sent for an xray to find out what is going on.  Ask for the doctor to refer you to the Triage service.  The Triage service will assess your condition and refer you for any imaging that they consider necessary, refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon or rheumatologist if they feel your condition was such that you would benefit from more help.  The Triage service person (who is more senior that an physiotherapist) will also consider the different pain medications that would be helpful for you and would write a letter to your doctor to request him to prescribe them for you.

If the Triage person feels it would help you, he/she may refer you to attend pain management sessions if these are available in your area.

If you are still seeing the physiotherapist, you can ask him/her to give you a referral for hydrotherapy.  

Hope you are happy with your new mattress.
Avatar universal
Hi jemma yes the new mattress - that cost a bomb was great last night and did make a huge difference, as did using voltarol pain gel on my back I feel much better this morning pain wise and in myself, everyone's advice has been v helpful. I agree and am aware being autoimmune that sometimes there is going to be nothing that can help and to be blunt you just have to suck it up and help yourself as much as possible. With the mattress making a difference I am going to wait a week to see if things continue, if not see the doctor. Thanks for all your advice much appreciated.
Avatar universal
You need an MRI! See another doctor!! Actually make an appointment with a Neurosurgeon and let them check to see if the numbness is caused by  
Spinal stenosis.
Avatar universal
I am 60 also and recently had a spine surgeon repair my back for similar symptoms see a qualified spine doctor to ***** your condition I don't recommend letting it go on but seek a qualified professional good luck.
363281 tn?1518219421

I highly recommend seeing a good chiropractor. It sounds like pinched nerves, and you need him/her to do a full spinal and cervical x-ray. If you do have pinched nerves, herniated discs, etc. chiropractic adjustments will definitely help. If the chiro does think he can help, he will usually refer you to a neurologist or some other specialist..
Avatar universal
Sorry for late replies to others, but thanks so much for the information, no luck with the doctor still - Tory cut backs they don't seem to like paying for any testing at all - great. I am now going to see a chiropractor and see if I can get x rays done. Pay your taxes and no help from the NHS.
4851940 tn?1515698193
I do not know if a chiropractor can refer you to get xrays done on your back.

In the UK it is usually the doctor that sends you to get xrays  and other imaging done.

An xray will not show soft tissue, muscle and tendon problems.  Xrays only show the bones.  It is highly likely given your age, that you have some type of degeneration of the bones.

You can always get back to your doctor and ask him to refer you to Triage and/or a back specialist.  If you don't keep going back to see the doctor, they think you are coping and doing fine.

I know exactly the feeling of being let down by the NHS. Last week my doctor winged about how he is being treated working for the NHS and would like to see the end of the NHS.  Only the same doctor who refused to send me for xrays and imaging when I complained of thoracic pain - and he feels let down!

I went to see a doctor with my hubby in the end and insisted that at least I get send for an xray of  the thoracic area of my spine - they in fact xrayed the whole spine.  I also insisted on being referred to a Rheumatologist and because the xrays showed severe degeneration, I saw the specialist 2 weeks after the xray was taken.

Unfortunately, there does come a point that nothing can be done to undo the damage that is already present.  Pain management sessions run by the Triage service can be very useful if teaching how to manage the acute and/or chronic pains.

If you haven't already done so, ask your doctor to refer you to the Triage service.  You will get an assessment and will be given specific exercises to do and the Triage service also recommends different medications that your doctor can prescribe to help ease the pain and discomfort.

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