Can't stand without burning/numbness in thigh and low back pain

by Danielle
(Waukesha, WI)

Hello. I have had no injury or incident - other than one morning I woke up with severe low back pain; I had "thrown my back out" somehow while sleeping? It was very painful and difficult to move.

After weeks or months I was able to move around and function normally again - but since then I can't stand for longer than 5 or 10 minutes without my left outside/front thigh going numb and burning. It's seems to be in the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. And the pain in my lower back (sacrum area is where I feel it) gets worse and worse the longer I stand.

I have full mobility and strength. I am fit and slim (exercise every day, eat health, sleep great). I have no pain when laying down so no sleep trouble, and get relief when sitting or squatting down or bending over.

MRIs show I have a couple herniated discs (around L4/5 area). Looking at my spine when bent over, the lower area (L2/3ish area) looks crooked. If I wear a back brace I can stand for hours with no leg symptoms but achy low back.

I have tried chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, injections - nothing works. Any ideas? I'm thinking about trying an inversion table? I have been living like this for 7 years. It would be nice to go to an amusement park, fair, art show, etc. again and feel like a normal person - with no pain.

Thank you so much for your time and any ideas you may have.

Hello Danielle,
Everyone is missing something and it's difficult for me, not being able to examine you, to pinpoint it.

But firstly, are you doing any lower back, sacroiliac and hip joint exercises every single day? Before you get out of bed is my recommendation; they take less than two minutes. If no one else can help you, you have to look to helping yourself; as you are doing in writing this letter.

Secondly, ask hubby to kneel down behind you and place his hands on the iliac crests; are they clearly level? Pain predominantly with standing and dawdling as at the art show says to me, check the leg length. Has anyone considered that, mentioned it? A simple inexpensive lift in the shoe can make a huge difference. Sitting would relieve the pain.

A pinched LFCN in the groin is a possibility but then running your thumb through the groin is usually very painful. Is it? Using a needle is there actual sensory change in your thigh? Compare sides.

Forward bending relief suggests to me degenerative facet joints; does bending backwards, or to the side bring on the lower back pain or tingling in the thigh?

Bounce on your knee; is there any weakness of the quadriceps muscle in the front of the thigh? Do you know if there was any change in the knee jerk reflex?

Sitting in a kitchen chair, flex your head onto your chest, and then slowly raise first the normal and then the naughty leg parallel to the ground. Is there a significant difference?

Do you have pain when coughing or sneezing?

There really are quite a lot of possibilities but the question why is it not responding to any form of treatment? An uncorrected short leg could certainly be the problem.

An inversion device may certainly help; get one with comfortable binding around the ankles and don't invert without someone else in the house.

Give me some answers, and let's take this further.

Dr. Barrie Lewis

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Feb 17, 2017
by: Danielle

Dr. B -
I have never heard/seen mention of the terms sacralisation or lumbarisation. Good. I do recall the first physical therapist I saw said my sacroiliac joint was hypermobile. The the opposite side may be the fixated one.

Although many practitioners have looked for leg length discrepancy and found none - my husband did say it appears the right iliac crest is slightly higher than the left. And, yes, if I bend forward there is a quite noticeable curvature in the spine. This may be very significant. Start with getting a soft inner for the shoe, the cheap ones in the drug store, and wear it every day for a week on the side of the LOW iliac crest. Sometimes just under the heel is better. Ask hubby to check the levels again, and what effect it has on the curve as you bend forward.
You may then want to put both of the pair in that shoe, one upside down.

Interestingly it seems the days/times that curvature looks a little less pronounced are days my back is in more pain. Days when the curvature is severe I feel pretty good. I can't explain that.

The thigh pain/numbness is something I can't get away from on any day when standing - unless I have the back brace on, or am cooking in the kitchen (I think b/c I'm leaned into the counter?)


Dr. Barrie Lewis Dr. Barrie Lewis

Let me know if that shoe lift helps, and do the exercises faithfully every morning. And interesting to see what the traction does.

Dr. Barrie Lewis

Jan 23, 2017
answer to your questions
by: Danielle

Dr. B - Thank you for taking the time to consider my issue. I will do my best to answer your questions.

Because this has gone on for so many years, I have tried many different exercise regimes (from various physical therapists, chiropractors, etc., as well as from DVDs (yoga back care) and books). Each I would try diligently for months on end before giving up and trying something new. If you have any specific exercises, I would be willing to try those as well.

I do not have a leg length discrepancy (that has been measured and looked for a number of times). I have heard on more than one occasion that there is a lateral tilt to my pelvis and that it seems my back muscles are working so hard to pull me into alignment?

I don't think the LFCN is pinched in the groin b/c this all began the first time I "threw my back out" and had such debilitating back pain. No groin pain either. Interestingly I do recall some leg numbness (same area) 18 years ago while pregnant (resolved after pregnancy and never came back again until about 7 years ago with the back problem). So seems something may have always been "delicate" and then the scale was tipped to "a mess" permanently. (also, I can stand for hours with no leg symptoms wearing a back brace, so I would think that would indicate the back over the groin)

Bending forward feels great and gives relief, but bending to the side or back doesn't generally cause grief. I will mention on occasion there is tingling in the left foot as well (I sometimes notice this more so if I lay on the floor (on my belly propped up to read)).

Reflexes all check out normal and strength is good.

No difference in lifting each leg to parallel with the ground (while seated, head dropped forward).

No pain when coughing or sneezing.

Just started inverting at 30 degrees for a few minutes a day... I'll try and slowly up that and see how it goes.

Dr. Barrie Lewis Dr. Barrie Lewis

Hello Danielle,
The exercises I think best are those done in bed EVERY morning before arising; just a minute or two. The spine gets stiff at night naturally from the imbibing of fluids and is vulnerable first thing; you can find my exercises in the navigation bar at Chiropractic Help. There's nothing special about them; doing them every morning is what may be different.

Two things that are significant.

1. Laying on belly reading with your back in extension; that strongly suggests it's a facet issue. Avoid that position; often will provoke leg pain in a vulnerable back.

2. That lateral tilt of the pelvis is very significant and may be the whole issue.

It could be what's known as an antalgic posture; sign of a slipped disc.

Or, it could be a sacral subluxation, or even an anomaly at the L5-S1 joint; any mention of the words sacralisation or lumbarisation on the report?

Or, coming back to the leg length; ask hubby to stand behind you, place both hands on the iliac crests; are they approximately level? If you bend forwards is there a curvature?

Only invert when there's someone else at home.

Dr. Barrie Lewis

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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