The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body and the body has two sciatic nerves. Each nerve travels from the lower spine, down through the pelvis and buttocks, and passes into the back of the leg. It splits near the knee into branches that continue into each foot.

Sciatica is one of the most common pains suffered by adults today. Some research shows that close to 40 percent of people will suffer from sciatica at some point in their life. While some use sciatica to mean any pain that starts in the low back and travels into the leg, true sciatica is an irritation or dysfunction of the sciatic nerve. The shooting pain follows a specific pain pattern along the length of the nerve that travels down the leg, past the knee to the foot. Sometimes it can be associated with weakness or numbness of the leg. The symptoms are usually on one side of the body, but can occur in both legs and is not always found with low back pain.