Leg pain can be caused by all sorts of problems: sprains, fractures, bruises, scratches, and wounds. But a pinched nerve can occur on any of the several nerves of the leg, and most cases will concern the sciatic nerve, which is the largest and longest nerve in the body.
A pinched nerve in the leg can occur in any number of areas: from the thigh to the knee and calf and all the way down to the ankle. This is because nerves are present in all of these parts, and any single one of them or even a set of them can get compressed or pinched. Luckily, most cases are easy to cure and recover from, and the symptoms and treatment for pinched nerve in leg are also easy to understand and accomplish.
The Causes and Symptoms of Pinched Nerve in Leg
There are many factors that can cause a pinched nerve to form in the leg, such as a fracture, a sprain, a cyst or tumor, or even something as simple as a heavy object falling into the calf or thigh. Sometimes vigorous exercise or repetitive movement of the legs can cause a pinched nerve. However, not all of these factors will lead to a pinched nerve every single time it happens. For example, of all the muscle strain or joint sprain cases in the leg, only a few will lead to a pinched nerve.
Many pregnant women will also experience a pinched nerve in one or both of their legs due to the extra weight of the baby. This usually manifests itself as numbness and the condition may be mistaken for varicose veins.
The most common of all symptoms of pinched nerve in leg is pain. The sensation can range from slight and burning to steady and agonizing. The wide variety in pain is due to the many different functions of all the nerves in the body. Some people will experience a dull throbbing pain, while others will only sense a mild discomfort.
Severe cases of pinched nerves in the leg can result in difficulty moving and walking about. When a nerve is tightly pinched or compressed, a leg can start to feel numb or weak, due to the nerve not being able to communicate normally with the brain and the rest of the body. These interruptions of nerve signals can also result in sudden and uncontrollable spasms or jerking of the leg.
Other people will feel a tingling sensation in the area of the pinched nerve, as if their whole leg has “fallen asleep” and has been left in a cramped and uncomfortable position even if it is perfectly straight and rested. The tingle of a pinched nerve can be just as irritating as pain and can also make it difficult to walk normally or even move the leg.
Treatment for Pinched Nerve in Leg
The number one pinched nerve treatment leg is rest. This applies to every single case, from slight ones caused by a muscle strain to pregnancy and even serious injuries or trauma. Rest is even more important if it is the sciatic nerve that has been compressed. Slight to moderate cases of pinched nerves will improve or fully heal after two to three days of proper rest, while special and severe cases may need more time to rest and recover.
To heal pinched nerve leg pain, applying an ice pack or two can be very therapeutic. Ice compresses will soothe the area by decreasing blood flow, and the cold temperature can also decrease any swelling of the muscle or tendons around the pinched nerve. Leg pain can also be eased by anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications. Over-the-counter remedies like Acetaminophen, aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Naproxen are found to be effective in relieving pain caused by pinched nerves, but you may need to consult your doctor first to find out which one will be safest and most effective for you, and this is especially important for pregnant women. Your doctor will also know the correct dose to take, which you should observe to avoid toxicity and side effects.
Physical therapy is also found to hasten recovery as well as prevent another pinched nerve from happening to the leg in the future. In most cases, doctors will advise doing simple exercises like stretching and rotating the joints of the hips, knees, and ankles; or you may be asked to visit a physical therapist who will teach you the correct routines and movements you can do every day to heal the pinched nerve.
Severe cases of pinched nerve may require cortisone injections to help bring down the pain. Surgery is an option if your doctor sees that the pinched nerve is caused by an obstruction that needs to be removed. A case where surgery is called for in a pinched nerve leg is usually due to a bone spur or tarsal tunnel syndrome in the ankle. However, the majority of all pinched nerve cases in the leg will heal within two to three weeks, especially with the right medicines along with sufficient rest and exercise to relax and strengthen the leg muscles.
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