Severe low back pain radiating into the leg may occur when the sciatic leg nerve becomes compressed and irritated. Symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy may feel like burning, searing, shooting and cramping.


Lumbar radiculopathy usually arises when a herniated or bulging disc becomes more severe and places greater pressure on the nerve root. (see Discogenic or Herniated Discs)


Severe nerve pressure may make this condition more difficult to treat. Initial therapy includes mechanical and manual lumbar traction to take pressure off the affected nerves. As the pressure diminishes, further therapy may include joint and soft tissue mobilization, passive stretching, and myofascial release to return normal movement to the spine. A specific exercise program can help prevent scarring of the low back nerves. Once normal movement has returned, the patient will progress to core stabilization exercises to build strength.

Causes of lower back pain

Most back pain is not serious. According to the APTA, the majority of low back pain is caused by strain, overuse or injury, and is rarely caused by a more serious condition such as a herniated disc or osteoarthritis. 

However, prior injury, prolonged poor sitting or standing postures, improper or excessively heavy lifting and poor overall conditioning can lead to  low back pain. .  Along with low back pain, symptoms can include numbness or tingling that can radiate into the hip and thigh. “These factors  can lead to excessive stress and strain to the supporting structures in the back,  Although an acute episode of pain may occur for no apparent reason, the underlying cause is often poor motor or movement control, muscle imbalances, or associated stiffness,” says Craig O’Neil, VP of Learning and Affiliations at Results Physiotherapy. 

Facet syndrome is often described as “my back went out,” according to the experts at Results Physiotherapy. A sharp pain is felt when the injury initially occurs, with symptoms that include local pain and stiffness and a dull ache radiating to the buttock or hip.

Range of motion can be limited, and the pain is usually felt more on one side when leaning, causing a “pinching” of the joint.

If you’ve heard of people who’ve complained of a sciatica – or Lumbar Radiculopathy – that’s when the sciatic leg nerve becomes compressed or irritated.  “It’s a burning or shooting pain that’s usually caused by a bulging or herniated disc place increased pressure on the nerve root,” says O’Neil.

Most people with back pain focus more on the symptoms, rather than the cause of their pain. "What they might not know is that movement often provides the best long-term relief for pain,” says APTA spokesperson Mary Ann Wilmarth, PT, DPT, OCS, chief of physical therapy at Harvard University. “As movement experts, physical therapists can help restore mobility, reduce pain, and improve quality of life," she adds.