The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve fiber in the body; it runs from the lower back and proceeds into the legs, innervating (supplying nerve sensation to) most of the lower back, buttock, back of the thigh, calf, and foot.
The sciatic nerve acts as a conduit between the legs and the brain in order to transmit sensory information about temperature, position, pain, pressure, etc. It also transmits nerve impulses to the muscles necessary for movement. When the sciatic nerve is affected by irritation or compression, these functions can be seriously compromised and any number of sensory and/or muscle dysfunctions may occur.
Some of the more common symptoms of sciatica include pain, numbness, and weakness in the leg. Some patients may also experience ‘shooting’ pains in the leg as well as muscle spasms, difficulty with coordination, and tingling.
Every sciatica patient experiences the condition differently. Some may find relief when at rest, while others will suffer with constant pain and disability whether they are moving, resting, sitting, or standing.
The sciatic nerve may become irritated, inflamed, or compressed due to a number of conditions. These include herniated or bulged spinal discs, spinal stenosis, arthritis, pregnancy, and degenerative disc disease, among others.