What’s causing my lower back pain and swelling in my legs and feet?

Many different conditions can cause lower back pain or swelling in the legs and feet, but not many cause both.

Leg and foot swelling is caused by edema (swelling) and/or inflammation. Some conditions that cause low back pain and swelling are not serious and can be treated at home, while others require medical attention.

This article will explain conditions that can cause lower back pain and swelling in the legs and feet, and how to diagnose and treat them.

Lower back pain and swelling of the legs and feet due to edema

Some conditions that cause swelling in the legs and feet due to edema and lower back pain include varicose veins, kidney disease, and pregnancy.

Varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency

Varicose veins, also known as spider veins, are enlarged, twisted veins that occur primarily in the lower legs. Varicose veins are caused by increased blood pressure and weakening of the walls and valves of the affected veins. They are more common in older adults, women, and people with a family history of chronic venous insufficiency.

Varicose veins are also more likely to occur from prolonged standing and other conditions such as obesity, pregnancy, chronic constipation, or tumors. Varicose veins often cause pain in the legs, as well as swelling of the feet and legs, due to insufficient blood flow from the legs back to the heart.

While varicose veins don’t directly cause low back pain, it can be caused by conditions such as obesity and pregnancy that increase the risk of varicose veins.

Kidney Disease and Kidney Failure

Kidney disease and the resulting kidney (kidney) failure can cause lower back pain under the chest cavity and on both sides of the body. Kidney disease that affects kidney function can also cause edema in the legs and feet due to increased sodium and fluid retention because the kidneys cannot properly filter sodium from the blood.


Back pain often occurs during pregnancy due to increased pressure on the lumbar spine from the developing baby and associated weight gain. A developing baby in the womb also stretches the abdominal muscles, which weakens their ability to provide support. Changes in pregnancy hormones can also increase the laxity of the ligaments, which can further weaken the stability of the lumbar spine, leading to low back pain.

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During pregnancy, swelling in the legs and feet may occur due to increased fluid buildup. In order to adapt to the growth and development of the baby, the body’s plasma volume increases by 30% to 50%. The increase in blood volume due to being away from the heart causes excess fluid to build up in the body, especially in the legs and feet.

Lower back pain and swelling of the legs and feet due to inflammation

Conditions such as arthritis, sciatica, ankylosing spondylitis, piriformis syndrome, arachnoiditis, and infections can cause lower back pain and swelling of the legs and feet from inflammation.


Arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis, is an inflammatory disease that affects multiple joints in the body, including the spine, hips, and knees. Symptoms of arthritis include joint pain, stiffness, inflammation, and swelling. If the joints of the legs, including the hips and knees, are also affected and inflamed, arthritis can lead to lower back pain, along with swelling of the knees, calves, and ankles.


sciatica Lower back and leg pain due to compression of the sciatic nerve. Other symptoms that can result from a pinched or irritated sciatic nerve include numbness, tingling, and swelling in the leg.

ankylosing spondylitis

ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that most commonly affects the back and neck, causing neck and lower back pain, stiffness, fever and fatigue. Ankylosing spondylitis can also affect tendons and ligaments, especially the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, which can cause inflammation and swelling around the foot and ankle.

piriformis syndrome

piriformis muscle The syndrome is a condition caused by irritation, cramping, or injury to the deep piriformis muscle in the back of the hip, causing irritation of the sciatic nerve and causing pain, numbness, and tingling in the affected leg. Piriformis syndrome can also cause lower back pain and swelling in the affected leg.


Arachnoiditis is a disease caused by inflammation of the arachnoid layer, one of three membranes that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. The arachnoid layer can become inflamed due to bacterial or viral infections, direct injury to the spine, chronic nerve compression, harsh chemicals, or complications from spinal surgery and surgery.

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Symptoms of arachnoiditis include chronic lower back and leg pain, numbness, tingling, burning, muscle cramps and cramps, and changes in bladder, bowel, and sexual function. Weakness, paralysis, and swelling of the lower extremities may also occur.


Infections can affect multiple parts of the body and cause a variety of symptoms. Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that affects the legs, causing pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, and swelling.

If cellulitis progresses, it can also cause osteomyelitis (bone infection), which can cause low back pain and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord), which can cause back and leg pain, weakness, fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and other neurological symptoms.

low back pain treatment

The source of your low back pain will help guide your treatment options. These include:

  • Core strengthening to improve the ability of the abdominal muscles to support the spine
  • Weight loss methods to reduce waist pressure
  • Lower back and leg stretches to improve mobility and mobility to relieve areas of pinched nerves and joint stiffness
  • Ice to reduce pain and inflammation or heat to improve mobility and reduce stiffness
  • Drugs, hemodialysis, or kidney transplantation to improve kidney function
  • Medical management of underlying conditions that increase the risk of kidney disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Medications for autoimmune arthritis, such as DMARDs and biologics
  • antibiotics or antiviral drugs to treat the infection
  • Pain relievers taken by mouth in pill form, topically in cream or gel, or by injection into painful joints
  • Surgery to relieve chronic nerve compression

Treatment of swollen legs and feet

Swelling in the legs and feet can be caused by a number of different causes, so treatments will vary. Any underlying medical conditions need to be treated first before other treatments are tried, including:

  • Wearing compression stockings can help improve circulation from the legs to the heart
  • Elevate your feet above heart level after prolonged sitting or standing
  • exercise your legs regularly to improve blood flow
  • Increase fluid intake and decrease sodium intake
  • diuretics (water pills) to help get rid of excess fluid retention
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When to see a healthcare provider

Back pain and swelling of the feet and legs that do not improve after a month requires a visit with your healthcare provider to help determine the underlying cause. Having both symptoms at the same time without injury to your back, legs, or feet may indicate an underlying condition that needs treatment.

If you experience significant pain, redness, warmth, and swelling in your leg, or if you have fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, you should seek medical attention right away, as these are signs of infection.


Lower back pain and swelling of the legs and feet are common symptoms, but they occur less frequently together. Causes of both symptoms include varicose veins, pregnancy, kidney disease, arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, arachnoiditis, systemic infections, and sciatic nerve compression from piriformis syndrome.

The underlying cause of lower back pain and swelling of the legs and feet is treated first, usually with medication, followed by symptom management, including stretching, core strength training, weight loss, heat and ice to reduce lower back pain, and compression stockings, leg Body elevation, exercise, and fluid and sodium conditioning to reduce swelling in the legs and feet.

If your symptoms have not improved for more than a month, make sure you see a medical professional to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can back problems cause leg swelling?

    Some conditions that affect the back can also cause swelling in the legs if the blood vessels and/or nerves that run from the back to the legs are affected.

  • When should you go to the hospital for swollen feet and legs?

    If you have significant pain, redness, warmth, and swelling in your leg, or if you have fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, you should go to the hospital right away. These are signs of a possible infection.

  • Can COVID-19 cause back and leg pain?

    Back pain and body aches are among the most commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19. Swelling and redness of the toes and feet have also been reported.