The Sciatic Nerve and Numbness in the Foot

sciatic nerve and numbness in the footNumbness in the foot is not the easiest thing to heal. One of my dearest friends had an attack of sciatica followed soon after by numbness in the foot that five years later has still not gone away. Of late he has been dealing with pelvic floor pain which he thinks, and I agree, is connected to the numbness in his foot.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body beginning as five nerve roots that emanate from the base of the spinal cord and pass through the pelvis before meeting in front of the piriformis muscle to form the peroneal and tibial nerves that are encased in the sheath that we know as the sciatic nerve.

At the knee the peroneal and tibial nerves take separate journeys down the remainder of the leg to the foot. The tibial nerve has two branches one of which turns into the sural nerve. Numbness of the foot which can occur for a number of reasons almost always involves these nerves.

Pins and Needles is a Precursor to Numbness in the Foot

On the simplest level the pins and needles sensation of your foot falling asleep is minor nerve compression issue. When this happens, and I would imagine that most everyone has experienced this to one degree or another, the numbness usually passes rather quickly.

sciatic nerve and numbness in the foot   sciatic nerve and numbness in the foot    Pinched-Lumbar-Nerve-Root

On a larger scale sciatica, piriformis syndrome and other maladies, can cause a numbness in the foot that can take much longer to go away and in some cases never go away. If the sciatic nerve gets impinged at any point on its way from the spinal cord to the foot its effectiveness will decrease.

Think of a water hose that you put a crimp into. The full force of the water pressure is diminished as the hose bends. Nerve impulses work in a similar way. The energy that powers our muscle passes through the nerves and anything that impedes this flow has to have consequences.


Needless to say this is cause for major concern and any issues involving numbness should never be ignored. While it is my job and mantra to say that learning to walk corrctly can fix anything –this is unfortunately not always the case with numbness in the foot or other parts of the body.

Improving movement patterns are essential to any healing protocol but i think working with a qualified chiropractor or similar practitioner is very important to creating a better environment for the free flow of the nerves that can often reverse the numbness in the foot.


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  1. Yes, I still have numb spots on the side of my foot and outside of my thigh 15 years later from sciatica. Herniated disc surgery a year after the initial severe sciatica episode did not bring back the full sensation. I’m still not sure if a herniated disc was really the problem (in which case if I had had surgery much sooner the nerve damage may not have been permanent) or if it was actually a piriformis problem. The orthopedist I saw was of the “suck it up, take some ibuprofen and don’t lay around in bed” school. That’s not always bad advice, since most episodes of back pain and sciatica do resolve on their own, but you really do need to advocate for yourself if you have long-term sciatic pain or numbness, and keep pushing your doctor for options.

  2. i had surgery for a herniated l4/l5 in 2/2010, after “dealing” with the herniation for 3 years prior to that — basically cortisone injections, pain meds, limping, and doing as much stretching and twisting to relive the piriformis as possible.

    the outside of my left foot is still perpetually numb (rather than the ball and outside edge), and if i walk too far or too fast, i start to lose control of my left leg — although i am back to running and can do 1.5 mi / 15 – 18 minutes with no ill effect. i also make sure i walk on average 5 miles/day (thanks, fitbit!)

    i should also say that the core walking course was a huge boon to getting the mechanics right. <<– shameless plug <<

    i couldn't tiptoe on my left foot for the longest time — and only now after doing weight-bearing exercises involving heel lifts can i actually get up on my toes, and the is a distinct size difference in my left and right calves (r: 19", l: 16.75")

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