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Sciatica Nerve & Lower Back Pain

Sciatica is a painful syndrome caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs deep through the buttock and down the leg. Sciatica can range from a dull ache to an incapacitating pain. Symptoms may be constant or intermittent, depending on activities or time of day.

Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating. Specific sciatica symptoms also vary widely in type, location and severity, depending upon the condition causing the sciatica (such as a herniated lumbar disc).

While symptoms can be very painful, it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage (tissue damage) will result.

Sciatica symptoms occur when the large sciatic nerve is irritated. The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body and is composed of individual nerve roots that start by branching out from the spine in the lower back and combine to form the “sciatic nerve.”

The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back at lumbar segment 3 (L3).  At each level of the lower spine a nerve root exits from the inside of the spine and then comes together to make up the large sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, down the back of each leg.  Portions of the sciatic nerve then branch out in each leg to innervate certain parts of the leg – e.g. the buttock, thigh, calf, foot, toes.

The sciatica symptoms (e.g., leg pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, possibly symptoms that radiate into the foot) are different depending on where the nerve is pinched. For example, a lumbar segment  (L5) nerve impingement can cause weakness in extension of the big toe and potentially in the ankle.