Sciatica - Calf weakness but not much pain anymore

Posted , 12 users are following.

Hi all, I hope this finds somebody!

Bit about me - I'm 21, (was) fairly active and in shape.

So, a couple of weeks back I went to a physio regarding my sciatica-like pain where I was told that I had slipped disc in my lower back. At this point I was in a fair amount of pain. 3 months prior to this I had injured my back whilst deadlifting and it had been getting better gradually over time, until I was very silly and kicked my bad leg up (to just over 90 degrees) and I felt my back go. The pain then started to get gradually worse instead. It was especially bad when standing up after sitting down for 30 minutes or so, and would disappear after I walked for a bit.

Once I started physio I felt an initial improvement. I felt that the exercises loosened me up and my pain was very managable. However, about a week a go I woke up with a very tight calf muscle. I thought nothing of it for a couple of days, until I started to notice that I was struggling to walk at my normal speed. I then noticed that I was no longer able to bring myself up onto the ball of my left foot without something to help me up, which was very worrying. Naturally, I began to look up my symptoms online and found an array of worrying posts about nerve damage - stuff like "will I get my strength back in my calf after sciatica?" followed by loads of bad experiences from other people (which I expect may happen on this post!). So, I saw a doctor the following day (4 days ago), who told me I had sciatica, suggested physio, which I said I had already tried - albeit for 2 weeks so far. So, instead she refered me to the spinal department at my local hospital. She said it could be up to 2 weeks until I hear from them, and possibly 4 weeks until I get to see anybody. She didn't seem to treat my case with much urgency, although, to me, losing strength in my muscle so quickly felt pretty terrifying.

So, my current situation is:

- Not too much unavoidable pain. I take some ibuprofen at the start of the day, which does me alright. It hurts to do any hamstring stretches on my left leg.

- My pain starts off bad at the beginning of the day - I move pretty slowly as I feel very tight. I often have a sharp burning pain at the top of my buttock and pain around the outer top of my left calf.

- And then, the most worrying thing is my calf weakness. It seemed to get worse very quickly for 2 days and now has stabilised (I think) for the last 4 days. As mentioned I can't push up onto the ball of my left foot. I also can't run/jog as when I spring onto my left foot it doesn't take the impact very well. I can walk (I walked my dog for 30 minutes today) but my left calf constantly feels as though I have just finished running a marathon - it is tight and weak.

I wanted to post on here first of all to just spew my thoughts and experience somewhere and give myself some clarity of what's been happening. But I'm also looking to see if anyone else has had a experience with sciatica that matches my own or if anyone has any advice. I could do with some help with knowing what to expect. My biggest fear at the moment is that my calf will gradually get worse and worse. At the moment, it all feels just about managable and I'm hoping that it is temporary!

0 likes, 16 replies

16 Replies

  • Posted


    Sorry to hear about your problems- have you looked at other threads on this subject on this platform, where there's loads of comments and advice - without appearing to be condescending, I think you *may* have made a mistake opening up another thread, as you may not get many replies (just my thoughts, not criticism, in peace!)

    • Posted

      Hi, no offense taken haha! Sorry, I didn't interpret threads on here as specific problems, I thought they were more like individual experiences.

  • Posted

    Meant to have also said that I had had severe 'cramping' (for lack of a better expression) in my calves where they simply locked up after walking no more than 20-30 yards, when I had to stop for a minute or so to let the muscles relax - I recently had angioplasty on both legs which has seemed to have cured the problem - I'm in my 60s by the way, but I had a complete blockage in my main artery going down one leg, fortunately my body had found a way to bypass that blockage, but I had a very weak, if any, pulse in my feet (although no-one had bothered to tell me that even though I'd been tested on numerous occasions, it was only when I had my first session of angioplasty that I was told)

    Best of luck

  • Posted

    Hi I was in a similar situation to you, I also have a slipped disc/prolapsed disc in my lower back, think their the same thing? I had a lot of trouble with this for almost 2 years then through stretches managed to get better, then done something silly and my back went again, this time I was bed ridden for just over a week. Again through stretches I managed to start getting better again but noticed when I was walking that I was limping, then realised I couldn't push myself up on the front of my foot like you and had trouble walking up the stairs etc as had no strength in my leg to push me off. This lasted for about 2 months I think and then the strength just started to come back again and then my limp went and I could push myself up on my foot again, i am just left now with numbness in parts of my leg and foot which my doctor said can take up to 2 years apparently for feeling to come back if at all? but hardly notice it anymore. I can't really think what I done for this to get better?  But every now and then I would try and strengthen my muscles by holding onto something and pushing up on both legs and pushing my foot against the side of bath when I was in it etc, I basically just took it easy, I hope this gives you some hope that you can also get your strength back in your leg too

    • Posted

      Thanks for your response Debbie! I'm sorry to hear about the problems that you have had.

      For me, I think I have already started to improve. For just under a week I had very little left, but it seems to be coming back quite quicky - I've lost the limp and I was able to push up right onto the ball of my left foot today (just once). Thanks for the advice to take it easy though, I intend to do that! But I also think it helped me to be walking around a lot and pushing myself. I really would like to start dancing again which involves a lot of calf strength and balance. Fingers crossed I'll be back in action in a couple of months.

    • Posted

      Oh that's good I'm so glad you have started to improve, hopefully you will be dancing again soon 😊

  • Posted

    Hi! I know this post was awhile ago, but I’ve been all over the internet reading to find out what happened to me. Your post is probably the closest I’ve found. I had initial lower back pain that originated from playing basketball one day. The majority of the pain eventually moved down to my hamstring and then eventually to my calf. This whole time I would have numbness in my leg that would seem to be random. As the pain seemed to go away (99% of it) I noticed my calf (left) has basically zero strength. I can walk fine and do most exercises and lifting fine. But I can’t run fast or long due to my left leg not taking the impact tight due to my calf. On my tippy toes with both feet is relatively fine, right foot no problem, but left foot out of the question. This is just very scary to me, as I workout, lift, run, and play basketball all the time and I love it very much. Being able to dunk and jump very well had always been basically the one thing I had that not many others did. And, obviously, I can’t jump like I used to. I’d love to hear how you’ve come along and what you did recovery wise. Being a very active person, this is just very scary, and I want to feel like myself again. I’ll post if I make any changes in my strength or anything. I’d love to hear back from you! 
    • Posted

      hey JordnS > MPayne

      what happened? you ok now?

    • Posted

      Hey JordanS, please can you update on how things have gone for your sport performance in the years that have passed? there is so little about this on the internet. I am 10 months into this and have seen a lot of improvements from zero calf strength, but reality is calf is alot smaller and still very weak compared to the other. I am 6ft 5 80kg very active train 5 days a week, strength and conditioning / HIIT / Thai Boxing.

  • Edited

    I am in almost the exact same situation. I actually just realized tonight that I had lost strength in my calf. It happened about 4 days ago that I had incredible pain in left calf. The pain is mostly gone now but I could  not figure out why I was still limping. Then I realized I couldn’t hold my weight up on the ball of my left foot. I am also not excited by the posts that I have seen online. I’m hoping that because I only had this issue for about 9 weeks I’m hoping that it wasn’t long enough for permanent d
  • Posted

    I now have same issues .. I also have sharp pain in my hamstring (like a bad Charlie horse). Is this unique.  

    A week ago my leg was numb and swelling.. but that has not happened for a while.

    I hate this pain!! What kind of Dr should I see?? Is it worth seeing or just pt and patience ???

  • Posted

    I am dealing with the exact same thing. Trying to understand what is causing the calf weakness and tightness.

  • Edited

    Hi, new to this discussion,

    I have an L4/5 disc herniation (MRI based diagnosis) which is causing seriously painful left side sciatica (I'm 4 months in and on a ton of painkillers, a walking again but only a couple of miles max).

    More relevantly to this thread - the left calf muscle is very very weak.

    A trapped nerve is suspected, as L4/5 herniation is not normally considered significant to my symptoms, they suspect I may be differently wired! Can happen apparently

    I wondered if any of you guys might have recovered, how long it took and whether any specific therapy was helpful?

    thanks lots

  • Posted

    Hi. I came across your post as I am in the exact situation.

    4 months of sciatica pain and then 2 months now of weakness in my leg, numbness in my foot, no power to lift myself up on the ball of my foot.

    I want to know how you feel now. Did the numbness go away? Have you recovered the strenght in your foot?

    Anybody else here who had the same symptoms and recovered? I am worried not to have this permanent. Thanks.

  • Posted

    I'm having similar issues - basically the same as you describe but in my right leg. I'm about 2 months into it and have gone from not being able to move up at all on the ball of my foot, to being able to lift about an inch, and i can also hold my self up on it after pushing up with both feet.

    Does anyone have any experience with getting rid of this? Is time the best option or is there a way to improve this?

    It's hampering my sports and makes me walk odd as i cannot push onto the ball of my foot?

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