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Saphenous Nerve | Anatomy and Function

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2 mins ago

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by james

The saphenous nerve is the largest cutaneous branch of the femoral nerve. It is a sensory nerve with no motor function. This means it provides feedback of information about sensation in the leg, but is not involved in causing the muscles of the leg to contract.

Saphenous Nerve Innervation and Anatomy

There are two major nerves in the leg, the better-known sciatic nerve at the back of the leg which can cause sciatica pain, and the femoral nerve which runs down the front of the leg. The saphenous nerve is a branch of the femoral nerve. The sciatic and femoral nerves leave the spinal cord in a network of nerves called the lumbar plexus.

The femoral nerve has its roots at the L2, L3 and L4 levels of the lumbar spine. The saphenous nerve root is at the L3 and L4 levels of the lumbar spine. This is where the nerve originates from, and where it exits the spinal cord.

The saphenous nerve separates from the femoral nerve at the top of the thigh where the femoral nerve splits in two. There is an anterior branch and a posterior branch. It is the posterior branch that becomes the saphenous nerve.

Saphenous Nerve Distribution

The saphenous nerve runs from the top of the thigh along the inside of the leg, down to the inside of the ankle. It sits deep in the thigh, closer to the skin around the knee, deeper as it runs through the inner shin and closer to the skin around the ankle.

The saphenous nerve runs from the top of the thigh along the femoral artery, sitting just in front and on the outside to it, deep in the thigh. The saphenous nerve course runs along the adductor canal, also called Hunter’s canal, and part way down crosses over the femoral artery to run along the inside of it. It runs behind the sartorius muscle and comes closer to the surface as it comes up between the sartorius and gracilis muscles. As it passes the knee it continues to run down the inside of the leg along the inner shin to the ankle and arch of the foot.

The Saphenous Nerve Terminal Branches

Infrapatellar Branch of The Saphenous Nerve

Provides sensory information for the skin at front of the knee as part of a network of 4 nerves of the knee that form the Patellar Plexus.

Medial Crural Cutaneous Branches of Saphenous Nerve

Provides sensory information to the skin at the inside of the shin, as well as the inside part of the calf and the upper part of the arch of the foot.

Saphenous nerve Function

The saphenous nerve is a nerve that only has a sensory function. Unlike many nerves that have sensory and motor functions. The saphenous nerve enables you to feel where your leg is and what position it is in, as well as touch, pain and temperature.

The sensory distribution is the area where the nerve provides this feedback. It can also be known as a dermatome. The dermatome of the saphenous nerve is along the inside of the knee, down to the inside of the ankle and upper part of the arch of the foot. 

The saphenous nerve does not have any motor function, which means it does not stimulate muscle to contract. 

Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments for £45.

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