Why do my Back and Legs Bother me Every Time I Walk?
For most people, walking is a good thing. Some people, however, find that walking makes their back, buttocks, hips or legs feel worse. Commonly patients will tell me when they walk a certain distance they need to rest because of an unpleasant feeling in their back, hips or their legs. They describe different symptoms like heaviness, numbness or just an uncomfortable feeling. When they sit and rest, gradually their legs feel better. Does this sound familiar?
It is a classic sign of a condition called intermittent (meaning it comes and goes) claudication (unpleasant symptoms which are increased by physical activity). Thus intermittent claudication literally means unpleasant symptoms that become worse with increased activity and lessen or go way when sitting or resting, usually of the lower back, hips or legs.
One common cause of leg claudication is the degeneration of the discs in the lower back, called spinal stenosis. Back degeneration causes squeezing of the nerves that begin in the back but travel down the legs. When you walk these nerves are irritated and produce your symptoms.
Flexion-distraction is an exciting treatment for these symptoms. Recent research in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science suggests it may increase disc height (counteract the effects of disc degeneration). Another research report published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggests that flexion-distraction can produce symptom relief lasting up to one year. These findings are great news for patients whose legs hurt when they walk.