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Suggest treatment for sharp pain in the right leg

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Posted on Wed, 5 Apr 2017
Question: My story: I am a 34 year-old female; 5’2” and about 120lbs. I’m very active in my daily life. My job is very physical and I work out 2-3 times a week as well. Over the summer I got a new car. A few weeks into driving it, I started to notice sharp pain that ran down the back of my right leg. It only happened while I was actually driving. I looked it up; turns out car seats are a common problem, so I adjusted the seat accordingly. After that it was ok for a while.

Anyway, fast-forward a few months and I’m starting to notice it hurts while driving again, and then it starts to hurt other times as well (when I sit on the floor with my legs extended for an hour or so). So I start only sitting on the couch. Also during this time I started to spend more of my time sitting and looking at the computer for various reasons. So it’s hurting more often, but still it’s not really a big deal. Then I get the brilliant idea to fold up a towel into a wedge shape and put that in the seat to help bring my hips up higher.

That was a big mistake. 2 days later and it hurts like CRAZY. For 2-3 days it was incessant (tho somewhat better when active than when sitting or just standing around), my whole leg was just humming with pain by the end of the day (still focus along the back of the thigh though). I get rid of the towel and realize my seat is up really high, so I lower it as far as it will go. That was about 3 weeks ago. Since then things are better: still annoying to drive but, as long as I am active it doesn’t really hurt. However, it does not seem to be improving. I cannot sit for more than a few minutes and standing still is also a problem. About 2 weeks ago, I also started to have a bad flare-up of an old problem: a pinched nerve in my neck that causes my shoulder to hurt a lot. I have an at-home traction machine that usually resolves it w/in a few days, but this time it’s not working so well (no idea if this is connected). I suppose I could also mention that I am bit prone to anxiety and have been extra stressed lately due to the political climate. Actually I’ve been kind of obsessing about it and have replaced what used to be “fun time” with political action time in a variety of senses. Again, no idea if that’s actually connected or just a cruel joke the universe is playing.

I went to a sports-medicine doctor yesterday. It was not very enlightening. He just didn’t seem to care very much. He did do a series of tests, raised and lowered my leg, had me walk on tip-toes, etc. He said he doesn’t think it’s a spinal problem (and I haven't really had much back pain, nor numbness/weakness) or that NSAIDS or PT will help, but had no advice for me at all really. He did prescribe methylprednisone dose pack (I told him I was given steroids as a diagnostic tool when initially diagnosed with cervical pinched nerve). I started it today and the shoulder feels better (improved almost right away), but my leg is not better at all. The doc also told me that the towel was probably bad b/c it was too hard. So today I ordered a memory foam cushion for my car. I’ve been standing around at home today (had the day off) and now my hip hurts as well.

I guess I’m just looking for advice on what to do next. Should I take all the steroids? If the leg problem isn’t about my spine is there any chance they will help it if I continue? They make me feel even more anxious and restless so I’d rather not take them unless they might help my leg. If they haven't helped already is there a chance they will if I continue? I’ve read about piriformis syndrome, but I don’t feel like my butt muscle is spasming (but what else could it be?). If the car seat caused this, will the cushion fix it? How long should I expect it to take before I see some kind of improvement?

Any advice would be very welcome. I just don’t know what to think or do next. On the whole, this issue has been building for 6 months or so and the past few weeks have been very unpleasant.
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Answered by Dr. Prof. Kunal Saha (1 hour later)
Brief Answer:
Get an X Ray of LS spine done. This is important

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for asking on HealthcareMagic.

The sitting posture is troubling you and you should get the car seat evaluated. The underlying cause of your back pain needs to be determined and treated. You need to get an X Ray of the lumbar spine (AP and lateral) done and based on the report you need to see a physical therapist who would be able to demonstrate the right exercises for you. Vertebral traction might be needed in more severe cases. Surgical interventions is needed only in limited number of cases. But whatever be the case, do not ignore it.

Hot compress as well as over the counter NSAIDs like Aleve (naproxen) will only provide transient relief.

You also need to get your Vitamin D levels checked as low Vitamin D could also manifest with similar presentations.

Feel free to write back.

Regards
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Answered by
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Dr. Prof. Kunal Saha

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :1954

Answered : 4438 Questions

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Suggest treatment for sharp pain in the right leg

Brief Answer: Get an X Ray of LS spine done. This is important Detailed Answer: Thanks for asking on HealthcareMagic. The sitting posture is troubling you and you should get the car seat evaluated. The underlying cause of your back pain needs to be determined and treated. You need to get an X Ray of the lumbar spine (AP and lateral) done and based on the report you need to see a physical therapist who would be able to demonstrate the right exercises for you. Vertebral traction might be needed in more severe cases. Surgical interventions is needed only in limited number of cases. But whatever be the case, do not ignore it. Hot compress as well as over the counter NSAIDs like Aleve (naproxen) will only provide transient relief. You also need to get your Vitamin D levels checked as low Vitamin D could also manifest with similar presentations. Feel free to write back. Regards