The trapped nerve occurs in a variety of different ways, and different anatomical areas. However, there are some common symptoms that occur when a nerve has become trapped. They will cause some or all of the following symptoms.

Sharp nerve pain is sometimes described as ‘tooth ache’ like in nature. It may be a shooting pain into the arm or leg.

Pins and needles

Numbness – commonly in the arm, hand, leg or foot

Weakness of the arm, hand, leg or foot


Nerves may be trapped along the spinal joints (facet joints), by a prolapsed or bulging intervertebral disc, where the nerve roots enter/exit the spinal cord and attach to peripheral nerves of the arms, legs, face and abdomen. This may occur in the upper spine or neck or lower down in the lumbar region which can cause sciatica. Sciatica feels like a pain in the back of the leg going down to the calf and foot. It may be caused by a trapped nerve in the lumbar spine or by a piriformis muscle spasm in the buttock. However sciatica like pain in the back of the leg may also be ‘referred’ pain from the lower back. It is important to have a specialist examination to properly diagnose the cause of the pain.


Other forms of trapped nerve include thoracic outlet syndrome affecting the shoulder and arm, carpal tunnel syndrome affecting the wrist and hand, tarsal tunnel syndrome affecting the ankle and foot, and many other less common conditions.


It is impossible to generalise about the incidence and management of this wide group of conditions. They tend generally to become more prevalent with age and associated degenerative changes. Most can be rectified with good therapy and management, but the more severe may require surgery.


At West Country Osteopaths, we have specialist osteopaths and physiotherapists who can advise on the best treatment if you think you may be suffering with a trapped nerve.