radiating back and buttock pain

Femoral nerve distribution

Femoral nerve distribution


For the past two years I have had pain in my left buttock that radiates down the side and front of my thigh. My entire leg begins to feel heavy and I am forced to sit down.

When this first began I was able to walk approximately 500 feet before I had to sit. As the years have gone by I am having trouble walking just 25 feet without pain.

The thing is when I sit the pain intensifies and it shoots from my buttock to my foot. The pain was, in the beginning stopping almost immediately after I sat down and now takes sometimes up to 10 minutes to subside. The only way I can describe this pain is like a charlie horse. Do you have any idea what this could be and how I can at least manage the pain? Thank you.

Hello and thank you for your interesting question.

Normally when you have increased leg pain with walking, relieved by sitting, we think of a vascular condition called intermittent claudication; however, I'm not convinced but it is one factor to keep in mind, especially if you have any other vascular signs. Are you a smoker?

The other factor to consider with upper leg pain with walking is the hip. Lie on your back and pull the knee to your chest and then the opposite shoulder; rotate the hip. Does it hurt or feel very stiff in the upper leg when compared to the other hip?

More likely is a sciatic or femoral nerve impingement. If you bend forwards, backwards and to the side, do you get pain in the back, and especially does it immediately go down your leg?

You might try the Slump Test which you can find using the site search function at Chiropractic Help. It's for the sciatic nerve, but the femoral nerve stretch is more difficult.

One other consideration is a pinched nerve in the groin called meralgia paresthetica. If you use a pin and compare the sides of the thigh, is there a difference?

All in all, this is complex, and only a careful and thorough examination will discover the root cause of your problem; most likely in your lower back would be my guess, but that's a long shot.

It's definitely time to get a professional opinion. Let us know when you've discovered what is causing your pain.

Dr B

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