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Referred Leg pain – It’s my back’s fault!

By August 14, 2012June 7th, 2019Physiotherapy, Spinal Physiotherapy


We have a lot of patients who come in to see us for pain in a part of their leg. They often feel sore in the hamstring, thigh and/or calf area and sometimes wonder why we ask questions about not only their leg, but their back too.

Leg pain can be referred from the lower back, hip, Sacroiliac joint (SIJ) and can also be affected by increased tension in the nerves that run from the lower back down the leg. The pain may feel like a muscle strain and even be tender to touch but still be originating from the lower back or other structure. For example, an injury to a lumbar disc, SIJ, facet joint in the lower back, hip cartilage can all cause pain in the leg.

Common Signs and Symptoms associated with Referred Pain include:

  • There may be no specific mechanism of injury, ie. You do not remember “how you did it”.
  • The pain is typically a dull ache any not localised but may vary in its exact location or “move around”.
  • You may or may not experience Pins & needles or Numbness.
  • The pain in the leg can even feel tender to touch.
  • The pain is referred to the same side of the body as the problem in the back or hip.
  • The pain may be worse at night or when you have been resting in one position for a while.

To treat referred pain it needs to be accurately diagnosed so treatment can be aimed at the site the pain is originating from such as the back or hip. Treating the leg pain itself will not fix the problem or take away the pain.

Referred pain does not commonly fix itself and early treatment is associated with a better recovery so make sure you book in to see your physio if you have pain in your leg.






Kellie Jansen

Kellie graduated from the University of Sydney and has been working in Sydney’s CBD for over 15 years. She also completed a postgraduate Masters degree in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy. Kellie was inspired to work as a physiotherapist following many years of ballet and seeing dancers cope with their injuries. She now has a keen interest in acute and chronic spinal therapy and clinical pilates. Kellie is happy to see her patients at Bend + Mend Martin Place or Barangaroo. She works at both clinics every day except Wednesdays.

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