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What Causes Numbness in One Leg and How to Manage it?

  • Category: Spine Conditions
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: DR. HAMID ABBASI
What Causes Numbness in One Leg and How to Manage it?
Numbness in one leg can be caused by several issues affecting just the one side of the lower back and may include the following:
  • Sitting or standing in the same position for an extended period of time.
  • Pressure applied to the nerves coming out of the lower back spinal bones (lumbar vertebrae) or to the spinal cord by a bulging or herniated disc as the tissue of the disc or the gel-like material that leaks out of the structure may be causing the compression.
  • Nerve or cord compression caused by bone-on-bone contact of the lumbar vertebrae due to degeneration of the discs between these structures.
  • A cerebrovascular incident (stroke) affecting that part of the body.
  • Injury to the lower back on the affected side.
  • There may be pressure applied to the peripheral nerves that run down the sides of the lumbar spine by tumors, enlarged blood vessels, or even scar tissue.
  • Decreased blood supply to the nerve supplying power and sensation to the affected limb. This can also be a complication of diabetes.
  • Infections such as shingles or herpes zoster that can affect the nerve supply.
  • Abnormal levels of electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, or sodium in the body.
  • Nerve damage or injury caused by radiation therapy to nearby anatomy.
  • Nerve damage due to the intake of certain medications like chemotherapy drugs, or excessive use of alcohol.

person holding their knee

Managing Leg Numbness

The management of numbness in one leg will depend on the cause of the condition. Where some causes may be reversed, there are others that are unfortunately permanent issues. In the case of situations where nerve compression occurs as a result of a ruptured or herniated discs or where there is degenerative disc disease, the management of these conditions may need surgical intervention if conservative measures are ineffective. Patients with these conditions may benefit from a surgical procedure known as a microdiscectomy.

What is a Microdiscectomy?

microdiscectomy is a surgical procedure that is performed on the lumbar spine to decompress the area where the nerve or cord compression is occurring. Not only does this cause pain and numbness in the lower back but it can spread to the leg on the affected side, or both legs, and if serious enough may result in decreased power, too.

In this procedure, the surgeon will perform the following steps:

  • An incision is made in the back and the affected area is located.
  • A further incision will be made in the lamina (posterior part of the vertebra) and the surgeon will use a specialized surgical tool to remove the disc or material causing the compression.
  • The area will be irrigated and further debris will be suctioned out and removed.
  • Thereafter, the incisions in the muscles and skin will be closed up.

Microdiscectomy Success Rate

According to a 2016 study, patients who were followed up 10 years after receiving a specific microdiscectomy procedure were noted as follows:1

  • 81 percent of patients had excellent outcomes, just over 14 percent of patients had good outcomes, just fewer than 5% of patients had a fair outcome, and no-one had poor outcomes.

Over 90 percent of patients were able to resume their previous jobs and only close to 10 percent had to change their jobs for lighter work. No patients retired from their normal daily routines.