A pinched nerve in your leg can not only be painful, but can also debilitating. It can completely turn your world upside down unless you take steps to relieve the pressure.  While some people may recover quickly with rest and home treatments, others may have more severe symptoms and will need medication and/or surgery.

Pinched Nerve in Leg Causes

Your leg only has a few major nerves; therefore, there are only a few places where the nerves can become pinched.  Your doctor will be able to determine the cause through a clinical examination.  A nerve test called an EMG is also a possibility if additional information is required to make a diagnosis.  The following are general areas where a pinched nerve in the leg can occur:

  • Buttock – Pain that radiates down the back of the leg is generally called sciatica. It can occur when your piriformis muscle that runs in the middle of the buttock spasms and compresses your large sciatic nerve.
  • Knee – A major branch of the sciatic nerve called the peroneal nerve wraps around the outside of the knee just below the skin.  It is prone to becoming compressed, especially when you cross your legs.
  • Ankle – A nerve inside the tarsal tunnel located inside the ankle can become compressed.  This is called tarsal tunnel syndrome.  The tunnel is formed with bones and overlying connective tissue where the nerves and tendons travel to the foot.
  • Foot – On the undersurface of the foot between the third and fourth toes, there is a knot of thickened tissue that can form around an irritated nerve.  This is called Morton’s Neuroma.  It is commonly the result of wearing tight shoes.  The constant pressure or irritation on the forefoot can cause a pinched nerve in your leg.

A pinched nerve in your leg during pregnancy is generally caused from the additional weight pushing down on the spine because of your growing uterus.  A pinched nerve can also occur during pregnancy because the expanded uterus in the pelvic region can press against the nerve.

Pinched Nerve in Leg Symptoms

While a pinched nerve can occur anywhere in your body, the symptoms you experience will depend on the location of the compression.  A pinched nerve in your leg can cause the following symptoms:

  • Numbness – This can cause difficulty with movement and can make your leg feel heavy or uncontrollable.  You may describe this numbness as your leg or foot has fallen asleep.
  • Muscle Spasms – The muscles in your legs may have spasms or twitches.  They can occur without warning and can even cause your leg to give out.  This could then result in further injury.
  • Pain – Pain can radiate down the nerve to your foot or up into your hip and abdomen.  The pain can be described as a burning sensation or a sharp and severe pain.
  • Muscle Weakness – When your muscles become weak, you could have difficulty standing or staying in the same position for a long period of time.  You may also experience reduced mobility and speed.
  • Tingling – Tingling or prickling sensations are also called paresthesia.  These are abnormal sensations that can occur anywhere in your leg depending on where the nerve is being compressed.  You may also experience tingling in your knees, feet, and toes.
  • Sleep Issues – It can be difficult to find a comfortable sleep position because your leg is in the prone position for increased pressure.  This can interfere with sleeping.

There are a variety of home treatments you can try to relieve the pressure.  Physical therapy is a common treatment.  It can help to loosen the muscle, as well as the grip on the nerve.  While surgery is an option, it is not generally a necessity for treating a pinched nerve in the leg.