Sciatica / Trapped Nerve


This is a term used to describe irritated or compressed nerves. This commonly occurs at the nerve root (the part of the nerve which comes out of the spine). The term trapped nerve suggests that the nerve is being physically restricted and possibly compressed.

In the vast majority of cases, this is due to a prolapsed disc and sometimes bony growths from adjacent joints known as osteophytes which may be present in degenerative or arthritic spines. Nerves can also irritated away from the spine. These are known as peripheral entrapments.


The term, “sciatica”, is commonly used by many patients to describe leg pain which radiates from the low back. This term is now used less frequently with modern healthcare professionals due to lack of specificity. Back pain with radiation down the leg can come from several different structures, including muscles, nerves and joints, and thus deciphering the origin of the referred pain is paramount for optimal treatment and resolution of symptoms.

In medical terms, referred pain into the limbs from a trapped nerve in the spine is defined as radicular pain. If a nerve root in the neck is being irritated, it can cause pain referral into the upper limb (arms and hands) and, if it is in the low back, it can cause referral into the lower limb (leg and foot). Radicular pain can vary in both quality and intensity, but generally speaking it is described as constant, dull “toothe ache” type pain. The pain distribution is often specific and dependent on which nerve root is being irritated.

Along with radicular pain, a trapped nerve in the spine can also cause additional symptoms to be reported by the patient, such as:

  • Pins and needles / tingling / numbness: these changes in sensation are also known as parasthesias. The nerve roots serve certain areas of skin known as dermatomes.
  • Loss of strength: when the nerve is being compressed there can also be very specific loss of strength in the muscles that it serves, known as myotomes.

(The list of conditions given above and subsequent explanations are intended as a general guide and should not be considered a replacement for a full medical examination. Furthermore, we do not purport to treat all the conditions listed. Should you wish to discuss any of these conditions with our chiropractors, please do not hesitate to phone the clinic on 020 7374 2272 or email

Our team of chiropractors and massage therapists are on hand to answer any questions you may have, so get in touch today via or on +44 (0)20 7374 2272.

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