About the sciatic nerve

By Michael Perry, M.D.

The sciatic nerve extends from your lower back to the tips of your toes. This nerve branches out from the spinal cord, enabling movement and feeling to your thigh, knee, calf, ankle, foot and toes. Our sciatic nerve overview below delves deeper into why your body’s longest and largest nerve is important and what happens if it’s injured.

The sciatic nerve controls the muscles behind the knee and lower leg. It also transmits the sensations felt in the back of your thigh, down the lower leg and to the soles of your feet. If you have debilitating back or lower body pain that is affecting your life, the sciatic nerve may be involved. Learning more about this nerve and the full range of treatments available for conditions affecting it can help you in your search for pain relief.

The sciatic nerve and sciatica

If the sciatic nerve is injured or compressed, symptoms such as a dull or sharp radiating pain, numbness or weakness can originate from the lower back and travel down one side of the body. This can range from the buttocks or hips to the leg and foot. This pain is referred to as sciatica and is typically caused by a condition like a herniated disc pressing on the root of the nerve. You can educate yourself further on the causes and effects of an injured sciatic nerve by visiting both the sciatica causes and sciatica symptoms pages.

Although sciatica can be very uncomfortable and potentially interfere with your daily activities, it is rare that the sciatic nerve is damaged permanently. In many cases, the symptoms of sciatica can be treated at home with conservative treatment options. Common methods prescribed by a physician can include:

  • Hot and cold compression therapy
  • Over-the-counter pain medicine
  • Light to moderate exercise
  • Periods of rest

If you have dull or sharp pain in your lower leg or back, contact your physician. He or she can make the proper diagnosis with a physical exam, X-rays or an MRI and recommend sciatica treatment options.

Next steps

There may be situations when weeks or months of conservative treatment do not bring lasting relief from symptoms. To treat sciatica, Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive outpatient procedures that provide a quicker recuperation time^ than traditional open back surgery. For a no-cost review of your CT scan or MRI* to see if you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact us today.

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