Sciatica: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT

Sciatica Definition and Meaning

Sciatica is a catch-all term for discomfort that traces the path of the sciatic nerve, which is made up of a bundle of nerve roots from your spine that join together to form a right and left sciatic nerve. On each side of your body, the sciatic nerve then travels through your glute (buttocks), and then branches off down the back of your thigh, behind the knee, into the calf, and finally ending in your feet and toes. Along this pathway, the nerves help control movements and sensations of the leg. If you’re dealing with sciatica, you may experience leg pain, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness.

Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica is often isolated to one side of the body, though it can affect both sides. The most common symptom of sciatica is nerve pain that starts in the buttock area and travels down the entire back of the leg. But sciatic symptoms can occur anywhere along the nerve pathway — in the hip, butt, thigh, knee, or foot. Some people describe sciatica as a sharp, shooting, tingling, or burning pain. The discomfort associated with sciatica can range from a mild ache to excruciating pain. You may also experience weakness or numbness. 

Sciatica: A Hinge Health Perspective

When sciatic pain strikes, you may feel inclined to rest as much as possible. And it’s certainly okay to scale back and take it easy for a few days. Ideally, though, you want to keep moving. Try to stick with your usual activities as much as possible, and do some gentle exercises and stretches since these are the tools that help your body heal best. Yes, it might involve some pain. But, no, that doesn’t mean you’re making the problem worse. In fact, some sort of movement, whatever that looks like for you, is helpful to increase muscle strength (a strong core can help alleviate sciatica pain) and reduce stiffness (improving mobility can decrease pain flares). 

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Sciatica

Physical therapy can help provide sciatica relief by reducing pain, increasing mobility, and strengthening the muscles supporting the spine. Physical therapists (PTs) can design customized programs that often include exercises to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles of the back, abs, and legs. They can also show you stretches that help relieve tension and pressure on the sciatic nerve. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


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  2. Atlas, S. J. (2022, March 15). Taming the pain of sciatica: For most people, time heals and less is more. Harvard Health. 

  3. Sciatica Treatment. (n.d.). Bodylogic. Retrieved from

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