The peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve that crosses from behind the knee and then around the outside of the knee, to enter the muscles of the outside of the leg. Its thickness can be compared to the size of a pen. The purpose of this nerve is to supply energy and stimulation to the calf, ankle, and foot. Whether or not you can move your foot normally depends on the health of this important nerve.
No other nerve in the body is as frequently subjected to trauma as is the peroneal nerve. And damage to this nerve is a major cause of the condition called foot drop.
A sharp blow to the outside of the knee, such as may happen in a sports or car accident is a frequent cause of peroneal nerve damage, as is knee surgery itself. Of course, if the fibula, the bone in the lower leg, is actually fractured or broken, the peroneal nerve is in danger of suffering injury.
Also, due to its vital connection to the sciatic nerve, a broken hip, such as an elderly person might suffer in a fall, or even complications from hip replacement surgery or spinal fusion operations, can cause damage to this nerve.
The above reasons all relate to trauma or complications from surgery. However, less dramatic reasons for peroneal nerve damage exist; reasons that you may not have imagined. These have to do with too much compression of the area behind the knee.
We may not engage in sports activities that could result in injuries, or we may be fortunate enough to never sustain injuries in a car accident, but how many of us (ladies, are you listening?), sit a lot with out legs crossed, or, if we live in a cold, snowy climate, frequently wear high boots? While these actions may be seem perfectly innocent, the truth is that they are not good for our legs. We are risking the possibility of creating too much pressure on the peroneal nerve. Something else we need to be careful about is wearing a tight plaster cast on a broken leg. Of course, the cast is necessary, but if you think it might be too tight, don’t hesitate to speak up and let your doctor know.
All possible measures should be taken to avoid damage to all the nerves in your body. Each one has a vital role to play. But sometimes “life happens” and we have to deal with the deck we are dealt.
If you suspect peroneal nerve damage, by all means stay in close contact with your doctor.