Where is the sciatic nerve located in the body?

The sciatic nerve is located near the base of the spine, where it originates, and extends all the way down to the feet. As the body’s largest and longest nerve, the sciatic nerve contains multiple bundles of nerve tissue that branch out to other areas along its length, which spans from the lumbar spine through the buttocks and both legs to the feet.

In the lower thigh, directly above the back of the knee, the sciatic nerve splits into two nerves, the tibial nerve and peroneal nerve, which give sensation to different areas of the lower legs. While the peroneal nerves travel sideways along the outside of the knee to the upper foot, the tibial nerves travel downward toward the feet to the heels and soles.

As a mixed-function nerve, the sciatic transmits both sensory and motor information, which delivers signals that supply both movement and sensation to the lower body. This means issues affecting the sciatic nerve can be both painful and crippling.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a form of nerve dysfunction that can occur when the sciatic nerve is compressed. Often, the source of the pressure is a degenerative spine condition, such as a herniated disc or bone spur, which causes narrowing of nerve passages and compresses the sciatic nerve. The resulting symptoms, known as sciatica, arise when motor or sensory impulses are unable to pass properly along the length of the nerve. Sciatica can include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Burning
  • Weakness

Because the sciatic nerve is so large, sciatica symptoms radiate throughout the lower body, including the buttocks, legs, ankles, feet and toes. Most often, the symptoms are present on only one side of the body, although they can sometimes occur on both sides.

Sciatica treatment

After diagnosing the underlying cause, most initial sciatica treatment methods recommended by doctors are nonsurgical. Many patients are able to find relief through rest, stretching and strengthening exercises, physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In some cases, however, a full course of conservative treatments do not bring enough relief for a return to normal activity and surgical options might be considered.

Traditional open spine surgery typically involves a large incision that disrupts muscles, requiring overnight hospitalization followed by a long recovery period for patients to heal fully. Laser Spine Institute offers an alternative with minimally invasive spine surgery. Because we use a smaller incision, often less than 1-inch in length, to access the spine, these procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis. This means our patients experience a shorter recovery time^ with less risk of complication than traditional open back procedures.

Reach out to Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

Browse Related Resources