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Sciatic nerve and its branches

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Describe the general pathway of the sciatic nerve.
  2. Name the major branches of the sciatic nerve and the areas they supply.

Watch video

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body. It arises from the lumbosacral plexus in the lower back (L4-S3 spinal levels) and travels through the buttocks, passing through the pelvis and the piriformis muscle, before coursing down the posterior thigh to provide nervous innervation to the structures of the hip, posterior thigh, knee, leg, ankle and foot.

At the level of the posterior knee the sciatic nerve splits into its two major branches, the common fibular nerve and the tibial nerve. The tibial nerve continues a posterior path supplying the posterior leg, heel and plantar surface of the foot. The common fibular nerve wraps around the head of the fibula bone, dividing into superficial and deep branches to supply the anterior and lateral compartments of the leg, the anterior ankle and the dorsum of the foot.

Watch the following video to learn more about the sciatic nerve.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched our video on the sciatic nerve check your knowledge by taking the following quiz.

Want a challenge? Test yourself on all the neurovascular structures of the lower limb with our custom quiz.

Browse atlas

Take a closer look at the course and branches of the sciatic nerve in the gallery below. 


Key points about the sciatic nerve
Pathway of the sciatic nerve Origin: Spinal nerves L4-S3
: Enters thigh between ischial tuberosity and greater trochanter of femur, descends through posterior compartment of thigh
: Tibial nerve, common fibular nerve
Main branches of the sciatic nerve Common fibular nerve: Superficial fibular nerve, deep fibular nerve
Tibial nerve
: Sural nerve, medial calcaneal branches, lateral calcaneal branches (of sural nerve), medial and lateral plantar nerves

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