This condition gives rise to severe and more or less constant pain in the leg going all the way down to and affecting the foot. In most cases the pain is so strong that painkillers do not even touch it. It’s often associated with tingling or pins and needles in the foot, numbness and even weakness of the muscles below the knee.
These symptoms are not the same as coming from ‘mechanical back pain’ which by far is the most common form of lower back problem diagnosed.
‘Mechanical back pain’ usually starts in the small of the back and may spread to include the hip area and into the front or the back of the thigh. It rarely extends below the knee.
The two most common causes of trapped nerve affecting the leg, often referred to as Sciatica, are Disc Herniation and Degeneration (aka wear and tear).
Lumbar Disc Herniation:
Tends to happen to people aged between 30-50 years but fortunately is not that common.
The intervertebral disc sits in the space between the bones which make up the spine. The disc normally acts as a shock absorber. It is made of two parts. The centre, called the nucleus pulposus, which is spongy and provides most of the shock absorption and the outer strong ligament rings surrounding it, called the annulus fibrosus.
A disc herniation happens when there is a weakness or injury to the outer fibers allowing some of the spongy material to ‘run out’ causing pressure/irritation to the nerve root as it leaves the spine.
Degeneration (aka osteoarthritis)
This tends to happen to people over 60 years of age. As we get older, several changes happen to the bones and soft tissues. The disc loses its water content and may begin to collapse, causing the space between the vertebrae to narrow. This causes the space where the nerve exits the spine to become smaller which may lead to Spinal Stenosis and Sciatica (trapped nerve).
A thorough history and examination will help in identifying the cause of the pain and the appropriate treatment for you.