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Sports Medicine

Pain down left leg

11/01/2007

Question:

I have been receiving a radiating pain down the side of my leg over the last 12-15 months. It tends to shoot down my league when I try jumping and especially when I press heavy weights with legs (leg press, squat, etc). It is not reproduced when I do leg extensions, no matter how heavy. The pain feels like nerve pain, as my left leg feels weaker than the right when I do these pressing movements. Sitting in a fixed position for a long periods of times tend to aggravate the symptoms as well. The pain seems to start in my buttocks and at one point last year, after doing some really intensive yard work, feel like there was a knot in my buttock that coincided with extreme pain shooting down my leg. Could the be piriformis syndrome? If so, what can I do to treat it? I`ve tried rest, stretching, and anti-inflammatories but nothing seems to truly diminish it.

Answer:

Piriformis syndrome is one possible explanation of the pain and symptoms you are having, as the sciatic nerve is being irritated as it courses close to or through the piriformis muscle.  However, a pinched nerve in the back can also cause similar symptoms.  Treatment for both conditions involves anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy.  However, if the symptoms are coming from the back due to a herniated disc, treatment options are different.  To differentiate these conditions, I would recommend that you see a physician who can perform an appropriate exam and determine any radiologic tests that need to be performed.  I hope this helps.

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Response by:

Charles Webster, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati