The Sciatic Nerve (n. ischiadicus; great sciatic nerve) supplies nearly the whole of the skin of the leg, the muscles of the back of the thigh, and those of the leg and foot.
It is the largest nerve in the body, measuring 2 cm. in breadth, and is the continuation of the flattened band of the sacral plexus.
It passes out of the pelvis through the greater sciatic foramen, below the Piriformis muscle. It descends between the greater trochanter of the femur and the tuberosity of the ischium, and along the back of the thigh to about its lower third, where it divides into two large branches, the tibial and common peroneal nerves. This division may take place at any point between the sacral plexus and the lower third of the thigh. When it occurs at the plexus, the common peroneal nerve usually pierces the Piriformis.
In the upper part of its course the nerve rests upon the posterior surface of the ischium, the nerve to the Quadratus femoris, the Obturator internus and Gemelli, and the Quadratus femoris; it is accompanied by the posterior femoral cutaneous nerve and the inferior gluteal artery, and is covered by the Glutæus maximus. Lower down, it lies upon the Adductor magnus, and is crossed obliquely by the long head of the Biceps femoris.
The nerve gives off articular and muscular branches.
The articular branches (rami articulares) arise from the upper part of the nerve and supply the hip-joint, perforating the posterior part of its capsule; they are sometimes derived from the sacral plexus.
The muscular branches (rami musculares) are distributed to the Biceps femoris, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, and Adductor magnus. The nerve to the short head of the Biceps femoris comes from the common peroneal part of the sciatic, while the other muscular branches arise from the tibial portion, as may be seen in those cases where there is a high division of the sciatic nerve.