Sciatic nerve

The sciatic nerve is the human body’s longest and widest single nerve. Beginning at the lower back, the sciatic nerve travels through the pelvic region, branches down the back of each leg and ends at the soles of the feet.

The sciatic nerve enables movement and feeling in the lower back, buttocks, hips, thighs, calves, ankles and feet. When the sciatic nerve is placed under unusual pressure, symptoms typically begin in the lower back and radiate down one side of the body from the buttocks to the legs and potentially to the toes. This pain is commonly called sciatica. If sciatica pain is disrupting your life and interfering with family time, work or even just being able to work in the yard, getting more knowledge about the sciatic nerve can be a great first step in getting the treatment you need.

Symptoms of a compressed sciatic nerve

The location and severity of sciatica symptoms can vary depending on different factors, including where the nerve is compressed and how much pressure is being put on the nerve, but the underlying symptoms are generally similar. Here are some of the typical symptoms experienced by patients suffering from sciatica:

  • Local pain ranging from a dull ache to a sharp pain
  • Burning and tingling sensations
  • Numbness and weakness in the leg
  • Pain, tingling, weakness and numbness on one side of the lower body
  • Shooting, electrical pain down the length of the nerve

How does the sciatic nerve become injured or damaged? Typically, a damaged spinal disc or other inflamed tissue in the lumbar (lower) spine puts unusual pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing it to become squeezed or pinched.

Some conditions that can contribute to a pinched sciatic nerve include:

  • Bulging disc
  • Herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Bone spurs caused by spinal arthritis
  • Torn spinal ligaments
  • Pregnancy
  • Spinal stenosis

Treatment options

While damage or injury to the sciatic nerve is generally not permanent, it can be very painful and can limit work and leisure activities. Most physicians will prescribe a course of conservative treatment such as rest, stretching, physical therapy and hot/cold therapy to manage pain and restore mobility. Surgery to decompress the sciatic nerve can become an option if weeks or months of conservative treatment do not bring a return to a previous quality of life.

If you are concerned about the risks and difficulties of traditional open neck or back procedures, reach out to Laser Spine Institute to learn more about minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery. Our surgeons use a small, less than 1-inch incision to access the spine, so our patients can enjoy a shorter recovery time^ with less risk of complication than traditional procedures.

Contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.