Loss of control in the right leg only while running

by Larry Kerr
(Mt. Holly Springs, PA)

I suffer from, for lack of a better phrase, loss of control of the right leg, but only while running. There is no pain, no cramping, no spasms, and no tingling. This only occurs during distance running and only in the right leg.

The leg basically quits working properly and forces me to land well back on my heel. I get no push-off on that leg, forcing my left leg to do the majority of the work and irritating the left hip flexor. Running becomes much harder because I'm using one leg.

If I stop and walk a bit, I can resume running, but only for a limited time.

I have had an MRI and EMG. The MRI shows bulging disk at L4 and L5, but the conclusion was that they are not bulging severely enough to cause the problem, especially when there is no accompanying pain.
The EMG showed a nerve in the right leg is being affected, but not the source.

No other activities are affected, including lifting weights and walking.

There's something going on, Larry, but it's going to take a careful and thorough examination to figure it out.

I would agree with your doc about the MRI. The L4-L5 disc wouldn't affect your toe-off on your leg. That's the gastroc - soleus muscle complex, mainly S1.

I wonder if that irritation in your thigh isn't an important clue. It's points to something high in the lumbar spine, or perhaps the sacro-iliac, or the hip. No groin pain or stiffness? Can you pull your knee to your chest and rotate the hip, equally both sides?

Short leg?

Do the "Slump test" that you'll find at Chiropractic Help, and ask your chiro to do the Femoral nerve stretch test. Can't do it at home.

Keep looking, keep thinking. There's a basis to it. A FICS trained chiro would be a good idea.

Let me know who finds out what the problem is. Interesting.

Dr b

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Aug 05, 2017
Most Frustrating Injury Ever! (continued)
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your response. To answer your questions: no real back pain, my sports medicine doctor has done all of those tests you have mentioned with me. I have also had an MRA of both legs to look at the blood flow in my arteries..(looking for iliac artery endofibrosis) which was normal.

My sports medicine doctor does not think my symptoms are due to my bulging disc as the foot drop only occurs on the left side.

My sports medicine doctor feels it could be compartment syndrome so I am going to be tested for that....I think that we've pretty well ruled everything else out??? However, I am questioning whether my symptoms fit with compartment syndrome as I do not experience pain in my legs while running, just a feeling of loss of control/foot drop in my left leg...have you heard of any cases of chronic exertional compartment syndrome in runners presenting with only foot drop but no pain like myself? NO, I HAVE NOT.

Please go back and answer the questions I have asked, each one in detail.

Dr B

Jun 21, 2017
Most Frustrating Injury Ever!
by: Anonymous

I have a similar problem. I lose control of my left leg when running; this has been going on for 3 years.

When it started I could still run at least 6 or 7 km before it would happen but it has gotten progressively worse; now I can only run for 1 or 2 minutes before I am forced to stop due to inability to properly lift up my left foot and fear of falling; I actually have tripped and fallen a few times. I have had every test done; EMG, hip x-rays, ABI measurements, MRI .....all insignificant.

However my MRI did show a bulging disc at L4-L5 which my specialist indicated was not significant as there was no nerve impingement. However my chiropractor feels that impingement may be occurring when I'm running. So wondering if this is the case, could a facet injection at L4/L5 area possibly relieve my symptoms? I can do weights, elliptical work outs and bike with no problems.

Yes, I can understand your frustration. You make no mention of back pain; no problems?

Sitting in a normal chair, flex your head on your chest, and then straighten the good leg parallel to the ground; ask a friend to dorsiflex your ankle. Now repeat with the naughty leg. Is there a significant difference? Where?

Standing, raise first your right big toe, and ask your friend to press down on the toe; repeat with the left. Is it equally strong?

Do this also for the tibialis anterior muscle: google it or ask your chiropractor to test it.

What you are in essence describing is a 'foot drop' provoked by running. No pain in the leg when this happens? Just weak and can't lift foot? Have someone test the pulses in your foot and ankle; "intermittent claudication" needs to be considered.

If that bulging disc is the problem, and it might be, the weights wouldn't be advisable.

I take it the reflexes, including the very important medial hamstring reflex are normal. And there's no difference right and left to pin prick?

Lying on your back, ask a friend to raise your straight right leg, and remember the tightness behind the calf and thigh; that's normal. Is the left any different? Now dorsiflex the ankle; is that much more painful the right? Much tighter?

If you bend straight forward, are the two legs equally tight?

Let me have some answers and we can continue this; keep to the same thread.

Dr B

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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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