Extreme leg numbness and lower back pain.

by Dee
(Ohio)

Can you raise your big toe?

Can you raise your big toe?

I am a 49 year old, otherwise healthy woman. I was shoveling snow about 6 months ago and woke up the next morning in excruciating pain. I assumed it was a bulge and after treatment with prednisone and rest, the pain subsided to a manageable level but my lower back was still "touchy". I exercise regularly and returned to all my normal activities but did experience lower back flare-ups and mild numbness in my toes and feet.

Well, over the last two months, the numbness has increased. The bottoms of both feet was where the numbness really set in. I began stumbling, mostly because I had trouble feeling the ground so my feet would "catch" while walking. I have had several scary falls. The numbness increased and it is surface numbness. It feels as if my skin has had Novocaine. I can still walk and flex my muscles in these areas, however, it is awkward to walk and my balance is way off. My calves became numb. My lower back region is numb to the touch but when pressure is applied, feels tender inside.

Now, the front of my thighs and knee area on both legs is completely numb to the touch. My shins, outer thighs, and groin area also. My genitals are numb. I have had a few mornings where it is difficult to begin urinating. About a month ago, I had issues with incontinence but that has since stopped; it was as if I couldn't feel the sensation of having to urinate until it was almost too late(or actually too late in some cases).

I have seen my primary care doctor and he assumed this was sciatica and some kind of nerve issue. I took a course of prednisone, which did not help at all, and he sent me to orthopedic doctor. I had one MRI that showed "nothing remarkable" but degeneration of L4 and L5. My orthopedic doctor thought the MRI was not very good. He referred me to a Neurologist who ordered an MRI with contrast which was better quality. The Neurologist reviewed the new MRI and said there was nothing that she saw that would explain the severe numbness- mild bulges but no smoking gun. She ordered an EMG which I will have on Monday. I have looked into other things that might cause this numbness and I don't believe this is MS or any other ailment. I truly know that this stems from my spine and some kind of pinched nerve or compressed nerve or bulge or similar. I really believed that the MRI would show something obvious because of the severity of this numbness. My numbness is not going away! I am afraid to do steps and I believe that my legs are weakening; it's hard to lift myself while doing steps. The only pain I feel is lower back; same spot as original injury. Is there something that could be causing this that will not show up on an MRI? I am worried that if they don't find the cause soon, I may never regain the feeling in my lower body. What could this be? Are there any treatments that I could do to help me? Thanks, Dee.

Hello Dee,
You've got me puzzled too. The numbness is crossing several dermatomes and the weakness different myotomes; so it's not a straight forward lower back or disc issue. Also it's not usual to affect both legs.

However it started with a typical lower back strain-sprain, so that makes one think a chiropractic case.

I'd be looking for changes in reflexes and specific weakness; go to our muscle testing page below and see if you can identify which muscles precisely are weak. Can you raise your big toe normally? Can you raise your heel off the ground? Can you bounce on your knee without it giving?

Much of what you describe fits with either a cauda equina syndrome, or peripheral neuropathy, but the neurologist would have picked that up.

Another is a sequestration into the spinal canal but again that should have been seen on the MRI.

Start with lower back exercises done faithfully every morning before getting out of bed; find them in the navigation bar at Chiropractic Help.

I hope this contributes in some small way, but I too am rather at a loss; let me know when you have a diagnosis.

Dr B



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