Sciatica and Trapped Nerves

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a term that I see used incorrectly in patients. Many patients have come in complaining of sciatica when what they actually meant was leg pain. Sciatica is merely a symptom with many possible causes. Sciatica is inflammation/compression of the ‘Sciatic Nerve’. This presents with a particular pain pattern. The following diagram shows the distribution of the sciatic nerve and the areas its affects.

Sciatica - The Backbone Osteopathic Practice

Symptoms of Sciatica

  • Pain along THE BACK OF THE LEG and in the big toe
  • Numbness in the leg
  • Weakness in the leg
  • Pain on

More about Trapped nerves

Sciatica is one symptom and example of a trapped nerve specific to the lower back and legs. We can suffer from trapped nerves in all areas of the body. Here are a few examples of common trapped nerves and associated symptoms.

Spinal -

A nerve can be trapped in neck or upper back as a result of disc wearing, disc prolapse/slipped disc, facet joint wearing, Osteoarthritis in the spine, causing:

  • Pain radiating into head and arms/shoulders.
  • Headaches
  • Tingling or pins and needles in the arm/hand
  • Weakness in arm (problems lifting arm or gripping with hands)
  • Muscle wasting- If the problem is left unaddressed for a while, as the trapped nerve isn’t working the muscles properly, they start to waste and reduce in size
  • Numbness and reduced sensation in the hands/arm

A nerve can be trapped in the lower back as a result of disc wearing, disc prolapse/slipped disc, facet joint wearing, Osteoarthritis in the spine causing:

  • Pain radiating into the legs/feet/toes
  • Sciatica
  • Tingling or pins and needles in the legs/feet
  • Weakness in legs (problems lifting legs or feet when walking or going up stairs)
  • Muscle wasting- If the problem is left unaddressed for a while, as the trapped nerve isn’t working the muscles properly, they start to waste and reduce in size
  • Numbness and reduced sensation in the legs/feet
  • Reduced bladder control and numbness when wiping self after toilet (this may occur when the trapped nerve is in the lower back or pelvis area)

Other -

The nerve can be trapped in the arm/elbow/wrist/hand.

Examples of common conditions that cause this are: Carpal tunnel syndrome, Tennis/Golfers elbow.

Symptoms of which are:

  • Pain radiating down the arm and into the hands
  • Tingling or pins and needles in the arm/hand
  • Weakness in arm (problems lifting arm or gripping with hands)
  • Muscle wasting- If the problem is left unaddressed for a while, as the trapped nerve isn’t working the muscles properly, they start to waste and reduce in size
  • Numbness and reduced sensation in the hands/arm

The nerve can be trapped in the buttock/leg/knee/foot.

Examples of common conditions that cause this are: Piriformis syndrome, tarsus neuralgia, Morton’s neuroma, tib/fib nerve.

Symptoms of which are:

  • Pain radiating down the leg, into the feet, toes
  • Sciatica
  • Tingling or pins and needles in the legs/feet
  • Weakness in legs (problems lifting legs or feet when walking or going up stairs).
  • Muscle wasting- If the problem is left unaddressed for a while, as the trapped nerve isn’t working the muscles properly, they start to waste and reduce in size
  • Numbness and reduced sensation in the legs/feet

If you are experienced symptoms that you feel maybe nerve related it is important that you address them as soon as possible. Nerves take a lot longer to heal then other soft tissue structures in the body and delaying this can cause sometimes permanent, long-term damage. If you are experiencing numbness, muscle weakness, or muscle wasting then we advise you go to see your GP as soon a possible for further investigation as these all indicate that the nerve compression is serious.

 

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