There are two main nerves in the leg: the femoral nerve serves the front and the sciatic nerve controls the back of the leg. The nerves of the leg can have many nerve roots, and when pain or discomfort is felt in these areas, it usually indicates a compressed or pinched nerve. The location of the nerve pain can determine which of the nerves is injured.
The femoral nerve is the largest part of the lumbar plexus. It can help to strengthen the leg muscles and increases the sensitivity of the front area of the thigh and the lower leg. An injury to this area is referred to as a mononeuropathy. When nerve damage is also suspected, this is called a mononeuritis multiplex. Typically, this is due to an injury in the area or compression from a blood clot or tumor.
A sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve found in the body. It begins in the lower back and runs down to the lower leg. This nerve controls sensations of the skin, muscles, and the leg and foot. If there is a compression or blockage of the sciatic nerve, pain can be felt in any of these areas. When the nerve is injured, this is referred to as sciatica.
Injuries to the nerves of the leg can be caused by many things. A broken bone or an incorrect placement of a catheter are common problems associated with nerve damage. Diseases such as diabetes can cause damage to the nerves, as can temporary internal bleeding or cysts and tumors. Tight-fitting clothing or heavy tool belts can cause symptoms that indicate a nerve compression problem.
The symptoms of compressed nerves can include tingling and numbness in the back and legs. Muscle weakness in the legs, knees, and feet are also common symptoms, as are pain or a burning sensation. When there is severe nerve damage, an individual may be unable to walk.
In most cases, damage to the nerves of the leg can be corrected when the initial injury starts to heal by itself. Anti-inflammatory or pain medications can be given to relieve discomfort. Surgery may be needed to remove any blood clots or tumors that can compress a specific nerve. A patient suffering with nerve damage may have to undergo physical therapy to keep the muscles strong while going through recovery.