Limping & Back Pain

Limping can be the origin of back pain or a symptom of back pain. Limping occurs when pain, symptoms or weakness in the back or lower extremity alters your gait 1. The leg on the injured side is not functioning correctly, so it lacks its proper movement pattern. This causes other areas of the body to compensate, which leads to uneven stress or a larger than normal work load. Individuals take between 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day on average -- and limping can cause back pain.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Nerve Impingement

Signals from the brain to the legs travel down the spinal cord, through the spinal nerve roots, which pass between the lower back vertebra, into the legs. Lack of flexibility in the low back causes pinched nerves that lead to symptoms in the leg. These symptoms can include:

  • pain
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • burning
  • weakness
  • tightness
  • spasm
  • diminished reflexes

The source of the leg pain is the pressure on the nerve in the lumbar spine, and limping can be a direct result of this pinched nerve.

Low Back Pain

Low back pain can result from muscle spasm, muscle strain, muscle tightness or ligament injury. When the lumbar spine is not working correctly, other areas -- such as the pelvis or hips -- must compensate for it. This additional workload fatigues the muscles and joints, leading to pain, injury or limping.

Hips and Pelvic Joints

The pelvis and hips function as major movers and supporters of the body.


Knee conditions, including pain, weakness and inflexibility, lead to improper mechanics of the knee. The joint motions of the lower extremity while walking are interdependent -- loss of motion in one joint negatively impacts all the other joints. The inability of the knee joint to bear weight, or bend and straighten completely leads to an altered walking pattern, which places additional load on other joints. This additional workload leads to muscle weakness, repetitive strain injuries and pain.

Ankle, Foot and Toes

These structures work in unison to support and move the body. Conditions affecting the feet and ankles are often the origin of a limp. Eventually this altered walking pattern leads to pain in the body parts affected by and compensating for the limp, including the low back spine.