Trapped Nerve In Leg
Dealing With a Trapped Nerve in Your Leg
Dealing with a trapped nerve in your leg is extremely important to your overall health and your continued ability to have complete range of motion with your legs. Our legs contain many nerves, both major and peripheral, that provide sensations to the feet and muscles. These nerves are surrounded by tissues, tendons and muscles that can become inflamed due to injury or muscle use. A trapped nerve is often called entrapment neuropathy and occurs when the muscles surrounding a nerve become inflamed and begin to compress or tighten around the nerves. This compression causes distant nerve pain in other parts of the body. Entrapment neuropathy can affect both the arms and the legs and can be a serious medical emergency.
Entrapment neuropathy of the nerves that run through the legs creates a problem called Compartment Syndrome, or a swelling of the four different compartments of the leg. This swelling can be acute or chronic, depending on whether the inflammation of the surrounding tissues is sudden or gradual. A sudden rise in pressure around a nerve in the leg (acute) creates a loss of blood flow and can lead to damage of the nerve. Nerve damage is irreversible. It can also lead to necrosis or death of the nerve from a lack of blood flow. If the rise in pressure against the nerves within the legs is more gradual (chronic), the result is painful feelings in the legs and feet.
There are four major compartments that make up the human lower leg, the anterior, medial, lateral and posterior compartments. A trapped nerve in each of these different compartments has different effects on the body.
If the nerve compression occurs with the medial or inner part of the leg, then it is referred to as Medial Compartment Syndrome. This is the most common form of Compartment Syndrome. The medial compartment contains the posterior tibial nerve, which provides sensation to the sole of the foot. Causes of nerve compression within this compartment are over exercise and running on hard surfaces. Also known as ‘shin splints’, this syndrome manifests itself as pain in the inner shin during exercise. Treatment for Medial Compartment Syndrome includes stretching, running on softer ground, changing running shoes, and in extreme cases surgery or injections by a doctor.
Located on the front part of the lower leg, compression of the deep peroneal nerve, which provides sensation to the toes, creates Anterior Compartment Syndrome. This syndrome is also caused by excessive exercise, but can also form due to fractures of the leg or blunt force trauma to the legs. Signs of this problem are shin pain and swelling of the shins. If this pain is acute it becomes a medical emergency. The pressure on the nerve must be relieved surgically to prevent necrosis of the nerve. If the pain is chronic, and happens only during exercise, the best treatment is to change exercise patterns or have elective surgery to reduce the compression.
A trapped nerve in your leg can also cause Posterior Compartment Syndrome, or a compression of the nerves within the muscles on the back of the lower leg. These are the muscles that allow you to stand on tip toes and join to create the Achilles tendon. Tibial fractures in the past or excessive exercise can cause nerve compression in these muscles, resulting in calf pain and loss of feeling in the sole of the foot. Again this type of compression requires immediate surgery to prevent necrosis and permanent damage to the nerves.
Nerve compression in the outer part of the leg creates Lateral Compartment Syndrome. This compartment of the leg contains the lateral popliteal nerve and the muscles used to turn the ankle. This is the rarest form of compression and is characterized by pain located on the outside of the shin and an automatic inward turning of the foot. This compression type also requires instant surgery to relieve the pressure and avoid permanent damage.
Other treatments that a doctor can prescribe to treat a trapped nerve in your leg involve anti-inflammatory injections or surgery to enlarge the space surrounding the nerve to release the pressure. They may also recommend mobilisation for less serious cases, in which helps reduce the swelling and spasms of the muscle to reduce pressure on the nerve. Entrapment neuropathy can be a very serious affliction and should be closely monitored to prevent permanent damage.