Q. I have developed a tingling sensation that runs down the back of my leg to my ankle. It comes and goes. What is causing this, and what should I do?
A. The symptom you describe can be one of several things, but it is most closely associated with sciatica. Loosely defined, sciatica refers to pain down the leg. More narrowly, sciatica describes pain that emanates from the sciatic nerve, which is a large conglomeration of nerve roots in the posterior leg. The pain is caused by irritation of this particular nerve, which may occur at multiple locations, but most commonly occurs at the exiting of one of the sciatic nerve roots from the spinal cord. The most common irritants at this particular location include herniated disc(s) and spinal arthritis. Often, sciatica is a self-limited entity, which means that it goes away on its own in a short amount of time. During this time period, it is important to partake in gentle lower extremity exercises and to avoid activities or movements that provocate the pain. If the pain is severe or has lasted longer than 4-6 weeks, I recommend that you visit your healthcare provider. Further diagnostic testing and treatment modalities may prove beneficial.
Shay Richardson, M.D.
Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics
2415 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37404