The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It carries signals from the lower back to the leg and foot and then back up from the leg and foot to the low back. These signals are both sensory and motor, meaning that it supplies the skin and the muscles. Lots of people believe that the sciatic nerve supplies the whole leg. It only supplies part of the leg, as I will explain here. This will be a bit of an anatomy lesson but keep with me.
Where does the sciatic nerve come from?
The sciatic nerve originates in the lower back (lumbar spine) and is formed from the nerves coming out from the spinal cord at L4-S3. This means it is formed by five nerve roots coming together. It forms as it passes through the sciatic foramen in the pelvis.
Where does it go too?
The sciatic nerve then travels down the back of the thigh. Supplying the muscles in the hamstrings (back of the thigh) and one of the big adductor muscles (inside the thigh). It also supplies some of the skin in this area. Just before it gets to the back of the knee it then splits into two nerves, the tibial nerve and the fibular nerve. These go on to supply the whole of the lower leg and foot muscles and most of the skin.
The sciatic nerve and sciatica
Sciatica is irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. True sciatica can only affect the areas that are supplied by the sciatic nerve, and will involve direct irritation or compression of it. True sciatica isn’t actually that common, and in my experience in practice, I haven’t seen too many of these. More commonly I see irritation as the nerves come out of the spine before they form the sciatic nerve. This can still effect the same distribution of the sciatic nerve, but sometimes also distribution outside of this. This is because these nerve roots also help to supply other areas.
It is always difficult to tell where a nerve irritation is occurring without a thorough history and examination. It is always a good idea to seek advice from a trained professional who can diagnose these sorts of issues, such as a chiropractor. They will be able to tell you what is going on, where it is coming from and the best course of action. Sometimes imaging, such as x-ray or MRI, can be useful in identifying exactly where the issue is and may be utilised if necessary.
Often leg pain is misdiagnosed as sciatica and this can sometimes lead to the wrong treatment and management.
If you have sciatica and want to get it assessed properly then feel free to give the clinic in Eastbourne a ring on 01323 722499 and we can schedule you an appointment for an assessment. We are conveniently located in in Lushington Road which is in Eastbourne Town Centre.
Want to find out more about sciatica?
If you’ve enjoyed this blog and would like to find out more, then please check out one of our other blogs on Sciatica below.
Yours in health,
By Mykel Mason
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