What You Should Know About the Sciatic Nerve and Sciatica

Sciatica refers to the symptoms of leg pain, tingling, numbness or weakness that originates in the lower back and travels through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.
Sciatica is often characterized by one or a combination of the following symptoms:
  • Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely can occur in both legs)
  • Pain that is worse when sitting
  • Leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling or searing (vs. a dull ache)
  • Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk
Pain from sciatica varies from infrequent and bothersome to constant and incapacitating. Symptoms can be different in location and severity and often depend upon the underlying condition that is causing the sciatica, such as a lumbar herniated disc. However, it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage, or tissue damage, will result.
Specifically, sciatica symptoms occur when the large sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed in the lumbar spine. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It is composed of individual nerve roots that branch out from the spine in the lower back and combine to form what we call the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back at lumbar segment 3 (L3). A nerve root exits from the inside of the spine at each level of the lower spine. And, as mentioned above, these nerve roots come together to form the large sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, down through the buttock, and then down the back of each leg. Parts of the sciatic nerve branch out in each leg to innervate parts of the leg, including the thigh, calf, foot and toes.
Therefore, specific symptoms largely depend on where the sciatic nerve is pinched. For example, a nerve problem in lumbar segment 5 (L5) may cause weakness in extension of the big toe and ankle.
Are you experiencing pain, numbness, tingling or other discomfort that might be attributed to sciatica? Dr. Sharma can diagnose the exact nature of your problem and provide a regimen for wellness.