Trapped Nerves

What is a trapped nerve?

Trapped nerves can be very painful, and physiotherapy can help. Nerves can become trapped/irritated due to pressure from surrounding structures including joints, vertebral discs and muscles.

Irritation of the sciatic nerve is often described as sciatica and results in pain/symptoms radiating down the back of the leg. Other nerves can affect other parts of the legs and arms in a similar way.

Why does it happen?

  • Trauma resulting in injury to surrounding structures such as discs, muscles and joints
  • Repetitive activities
  • Sustained poor posture


These can include:

  • Pain in the arm or leg. It is often deep ache or burning pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness

Physiotherapy Treatment

A thorough assessment of the spinal joints in your neck and back will help determine the cause and nature of your problem.

Physiotherapy can reduce the irritation to the nerves by improving the mobility and function of the structures surrounding the nerve.

Treatment may include:

  • ‘Hands –on’ movement of joints and muscles
  • Electro-therapy to reduce the pain
  • Acupuncture
  • Specific exercises to strengthen, stretch or mobilise the structures
  • Postural advice to help reduce pain and prevent recurrence

What you can do

  • Take adequate pain killers – you may wish to speak to your GP or Pharmacist about this.
  • Use a hot pack wrapped in a towel or cold pack in a damp cloth.
  • Keep gently moving – avoid staying in one position for long periods.
  • Use pillows for support: on your lap to rest your arm when sitting or between your knees when lying on your side with the painful leg on top.


You should contact a Doctor immediately if you have the following very rare symptoms:

  • Problems passing or controlling your urine
  • Numbness or pins and needles in the saddle area between your legs
  • Numbness, pins and needles or weakness in both legs
  • Unsteadiness on your feet
  • Your symptoms are becoming progressively worse