Trapped Nerve in Back: Symptoms,Causes & Treatment

trapped nerve in back

Pinched Nerve in the Back

Ever feel like you have a trapped nerve in your back pain. Not only are people reading this blog because they are struggling with a pinched nerve in their neck but they are also experiencing lower back and leg pain.

Today I thought I would say a bit for those people suffering that pinched nerve pain in their backs and need some help for pain relief. Lower back pain is definitely a common health problem for many adults. In the post below I will briefly discuss the basic anatomy of the lumbar spine, common causes and symptoms of a trapped nerve in your low back and finally some easy low back pain exercises and pain control tips.

Is This Sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition typically mentioned when talking about a low back pain and leg pain episode.

Sciatica is when you have pain running down the back of your leg in the same area that the sciatic nerve runs. The term sciatica is associated with lower back and leg pain because it is the main nerve from the spine that goes down the leg.

The sciatic nerve is made up of 5 spinal nerves coming together like a rope.

Sciatica is thought to be the cause of the trapped nerve, but it is not. Sciatica is only a symptom and not a diagnosis, this is important to remember.

This means if someone tells you that you have sciatica it is not the full story of what is causing their pain. You still don’t know the actual pain cause yet.

To understand more of what I mean I think it is necessary that I help refresh your anatomy knowledge of the low back area.

L4-5 Herniated Disc Video

In this brief low back pain video you can see the herniated disc at the L4-5 spinal level.

This means that the disc between the 4th and 5th lumbar bones is pushing out causing a pinched nerve that can then give you a lower back pain and/or leg pain.

I hope this video will help you understand the lumbar spine anatomy a bit better.

The lower back region is made up of 5 lumbar vertebrae bones, 5  lumbar discs, various muscles, ligaments, nerves and more. Any of these structures could be causing your lower back and leg pain. I did a video showing how a lumbar spine can get degenerative disc disease with time and what that might look like.

So coming back to sciatica it is usually only one of the nerves existing the spine that gets pinched by a disc not all 5. The sciatic nerve could also be irritated by other anatomy other than the disc in the area.

That is why sciatica is only a symptom and not a diagnosis of the low back and leg pain. You still need to know what anatomical structure is making your sciatic nerve feel sore down your leg.

So lets look at two common causes of nerve pain in the lower back and leg.

Two Common Causes of Low Back Pain

So what have I seen in chiropractic practice commonly causing nerve pain symptoms in the lower back and leg pain patients? Well here are two of the common causes:

  1. Bulging Disc/Herniated Discs
    When I see signs of an angry nerve in the lower back I always suspect an injured lumbar spinal disc. This is a condition causing what I call true trapped nerve pain. Because in this case one of the 5 nerves of the major sciatic nerve can be chemically or physically irritated/compressed causing the lower back and leg pain.
  2. Facet Syndrome
    A facet is a spinal joint between each of lumbar vertebrae bones in your lower back spine. Facets too can get irritated enough to cause severe lower back pain, especially first thing in the morning. I find a facet pain happens commonly when people try tie a shoe lace in the morning and then cannot stand up straight. Remember though that facet joint pain should not cause leg pain below the knee. Pain below the knee is usually when you have a trapped nerve in the spine coming from a herniated disc.

Trapped Nerve Pain Relief Tips and Lower Back Exercises

But what can you do to help the nerve pain you’re experiencing?

Well if after your chiropractor or doctor finishes examining you and confirms to you that you do have what I call a true trapped nerve in your lower back then they will first advise what they could do for you.

In the meantime, however, there are some exercises you can do for lower back pain relief.

The following self-help tips are things you can try do yourself whilst getting your appropriate lower back pain treatment from a healthcare professional.

  1. RICE
    “RICE” stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. It is the first line of anti-inflammatory treatment.
    Ice using covered ice packs to bring nerve pain and swelling down.
    Rest from too much movement, prolonged sitting or standing. Some walking will be good for you.
    Compression can be from a velcro lumbar support belt or corset if needed.
    You cannot elevate for low back pain so just forget about elevation.
  2. Bum Squeezes
    Using your bum (a.k.a gluteal)  muscles to support your spine can help control abnormal back movement, which can cause the lower back and leg pain. So simple squeeze your bum muscles together when bending over or getting up like from a chair.
  3. Lumbar Support Chair Cushion
    Lumbar chair support is important to use in your office, car and sofa lounge seat with trapped nerve pain. Back support chairs will have a cushion pushing your lower back forward to re-create the natural lumbar spine arch (a.k.a lordosis).
    So maybe use a small pillow or cushion to support your lower back when you’re sitting.
  4. Pain Relief Positions
    Some positions that may give you low back pain relief include the 90/90 position, a pillow between your knees when laying on your side  & finding pelvic neutral.
    90-90 low back pain relief position laying
  5. Review Medication for Nerve Pain
    Maybe your GP has prescribed you or you are trying over the counter pain medication (a.k.a analgesics). But your finding the medication isn’t taking the pain away. May you need to review which pain pills you are taking.
    Trapped nerve pain is classed as neuropathic pain source. There are many types and dosages of medication for nerve pain. Some work better for different people. So I would recommend you chat with your GP to see if you are on the best anti-inflammatory or pain medication for you. [NEW] A natural rub on pain relief gel suggestion would be BioFreeze.
  6. Skin Rolling [NEW]
    Another simple cause of low back pain can be something called Thoracolumbar Junction Syndrome. If these posterior rami nerves are being trapped skin rolling could tell you that is the problem and help decrease some of the pain.

Another health product for low back pain relief is this book by Robin McKenzie called “Treat Your Own Back”. McKenzie exercises are great for someone with lumbar disc problem causing sciatica pain down the leg. I also included a reusable ice pack and Biofreeze gel which are great natural low back pain killers.

The Bottom Line

The lower back and leg pain relief self-help list above is not exhaustive, but should hopefully give you some ideas as to what you can do to also help your trapped nerve in your lower back pain causing sciatica leg pain.