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Why do I have tingling in my feet?

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Most people have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with low back pain. In fact, approximately four out of five people with experience an episode of back pain in the United States. When a person develops an episode of back pain it usually subsides in a few days without any treatment, however some people’s pain will not subside and they develop numbness and tingling symptoms as well. This is usually due to a condition called a lumbar radiculopathy.

Lumbar radiculopathies are caused by compression of a nerve root exiting the spine. The spine is made of bony structures called vertebra. Between these vertebra are discs that act as shock absorbers. This allows a person to load the spine with extremely heavy weights without causing damage to a person’s body. This is one of the reasons why bodybuilders or power-lifters are able to lift such heavy weights without inflicting damage on their bodies.

If a person sustains severe trauma to their lower back or if they lift a heavy object with poor lifting mechanics the disc may bulge outward. This bulging is often referred to as a herniated disc. If a disc herniates then a nerve root of the lower part of the spine may become compressed. The nerve roots that exit the lower part of the spine travel down to our legs. Therefore when one of these roots become compressed a person usually experiences sharp, shooting low back pain, pain that travels down the leg, decreased reflexes, numbness and tingling in the leg and in more serve cases decrease strength of their legs.

Because of this, lumbar radiculopathies can be extremely debilitating and if the strength of a person’s legs becomes compromised they may begin to drag their foot causing them to be at risk for falling. In addition to trauma and poor lifting mechanics, age is another risk factor for developing a herniated disc. As we age our discs lose water and thus they begin to shrink which causes the space between the vertebra to narrow which increases the likelihood that a nerve root will become compressed.

Several treatment options exist to treat lumbar radiculopathies. The physical therapist may focus on strengthening the muscles around the spine. By strengthening the core musculature the pressure on the spinal column is reduced which can reduce the pressure on the nerve root. A physical therapist may also treat a lumbar radiculopathy by identifying a movement pattern that partially resolves a patient’s symptoms. A therapist will then incorporating exercises that place the patient into this position. A physical therapist may also incorporate modalities such as ultrasound and traction. Ultrasound increases blood flow to the targeted area and aids in accelerating healing of the injured disc. Traction involves distracting the vertebra which reduces the compression of the nerve root. This can be accomplished manually by the physical therapist or mechanically with a device. Aquatic therapy may also be prescribed if a patient’s symptoms are too severe for them to tolerate exercises on land. By performing exercises in the water the spine is partially unloaded which reduces the overall pressure on the nerve roots.

Additionally, when a person experiences back pain their back begins to tense. A physical therapist is also trained to use hands on techniques to help reduce this built up tension and reduce any muscle guarding the patient is experiencing. Lastly, in order to prevent further injury a physical therapist will make sure to educate the patient on proper lifting techniques that place the spine a neutral position while it is being loaded. For more information on physical therapy services visit www.totalperformancept.com.

If you’re experiencing low back pain, numbness or tingling in your legs contact Total Performance Physical Therapy for an evaluation today.

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