Tingling, Painful Arms or Legs? It Could Be From Your Back.

Many times, we might hear a person say, ” Oh, my sciatica is bothering me today” or “Ouch my aching back” while rubbing their low back. Here we explain what sciatica is and a few other possible causes for pain in your back, legs or arms. There are many possibilities. A medical evaluation is necessary to discover each person’s  specific case. 🏥



Ankyloasing Spondylitis:

This type of arthritis does not occur due to any trauma. It has an insidious onset. A person could be genetically predisposed however, as it may occur in those with history of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or psoriasis. An x-ray may show deformity known as a “bamboo” spine in more severe cases. People report complaints of generalized stiffness and pain which increase with inactivity and overnight. Shortness of breath may also be present due to decrease in rib extension. Symptoms increase overtime. However, Ankylosing Sprondylitis is easily treated with physical therapy by improving posture, overall strength, improving or maintaining flexibility and pain management. 🌟



Inflammation of the sciatic nerve which originates from L4-S2 is sciatica. In most cases, the nerve gets compressed in the periphery as opposed to the nerve root itself.  It presents in the nerve distribution associated with hamstring and lower leg function. Sciatic pain is often worsened with flexion of the lumbar spine, twisting, bending, or coughing. Symptoms are commonly reported unilaterally with pain or a burning sensation deep in the buttocks and numbness/tingling along with the pain. 😞



Disc Related Issues:

Most commonly generalized as either disc degeneration or protrusion. It is important to note that Degenerative Disc Disease is not an actual disease but a condition in which the disc is damaged,  sometimes even flattened, due to age or arthritic changes in the body. Those with DDD usually report pain that can range from nagging to severe pain which worsens with sitting and usually gets better with change of position, standing and sometimes even running. At times, people will even report neurogenic symptoms such as numbness and tingling in the limbs, as the disc flattens out and the adjacent vertebrae compress the nerve in between. 


When it comes to disc protrusions, they can be generalized as disc herniations or bulging discs. An easy way to explain disc related conditions is by using a jelly donut analogy where the donut represents the disc and the jelly is the nucleus which lives inside of every disc.


When the donut is squeezed from one side, the jelly moves to the opposite side. That in translation becomes a bulging disc with the nucleus being pushed out and compressed by the vertebrates. The harder that donut is squeezed, the more the jelly will move in the opposite direction eventually, leaking out. That leakage is analagous to disc herniation, with the worst case scenario becoming a disc rupture. 

All of these disc related issues cause symptoms associated with back and limb pain, muscle weakness and symptoms such as numbness, tingling and/or shooting pain. 


Sacroilliac Joint Dysfunction: This condition frequently tends to be mistaken for low back pain as the symptoms may overlap. However, those with SIJ Dysfunction will have the pain located in the area of the joint itself (lower than the lumbar spine itself) and it will correspond to provocation and pain reproduction tests performed by the clinicians. Clicking and popping of the joint may be present. 

Spinal stenosis: This condition usually  occurs  over time as a result of narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is a hollow space running through our entire spine. It contains the spinal cord and nerve roots throughout. As the space narrows, it compresses and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. That compression causes the following symptoms:

-Pain in the lower back.

-Burning pain or ache that radiates down the buttocks and into the legs; typically worsens with standing or walking and gets better with leaning forward (flexion).

-Numbness, tingling, or cramping in the legs and feet. These may become more pronounced during standing or walking.

-Weakness in the legs and feet.


Stenosis may occur at any level in our spine, but it is most common in lumbar and cervical regions. Cervical spine symptoms present similarly as the lumbar symptoms stated above, but with radiating symptoms present in arms instead of legs. With all levels, a person will report an increase in pain with extension of neck/back. 

There is no specific cause to spinal stenosis, but it may occur as a result of aging and age related conditions such as arthritis.   

Spondylolisthesis: Slippage of one vertebrae, or spondylolisthesis, usually occurs due to degenerative changes or repetitive and traumatic experiences. It is very common in young gymnasts as a result of repetitive back extension. Pain is present in the low back and is accompanied with numbness/tingling and weakness in legs. 

If you are experiencing any symptoms described in this article or have new pain, numbness, stiffness or tingling in your arms or legs, contact us today!


Please, call us to schedule your free evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!