What You Need To Know About Sciatica During Pregnancy
Sciatica will most likely occur during the third trimester, when both you and your baby are bulking up . Most women typically experience pain just on one side, though you may feel it in both legs.
Sciatica can be constant or intermittent, depending on the amount of pressure placed on the nerve. Pain may increase as you put on more weight and retain more fluid.
And it can stick around for a few months or so after youve given birth, until youve shed the excess weight and fluid pressing on the nerve.
How Does Physical Therapy Help Relieve Sciatica Pain Immediately During Pregnancy
As your pregnancy hormones course through your body, one side effect is loosening joints. If your hip and pelvic muscles are not strong enough to support the increasing load, the surrounding muscles compensate and often spasm. These spasms can put extra pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing sciatic symptoms.
“Unlike muscles, you canât stretch nerves. Theyâre like pieces of rope. When theyâre tight in one place, you have to loosen them elsewhere to give the nerve mobility.â
Put simply, to get immediate sciatica pain relief during pregnancy, youâre going to have to loosen the nerve. From there, itâs important to strengthen the surrounding muscles. Strengthening the core, glutes, pelvic girdle, and pelvic floor helps your body make room and adjust to the increased load of pregnancy. For most women, physical therapy can help to stabilize the joints that have been loosened by pregnancy hormones. Sciatica pain relief will improve right away and increase within the first 7-14 days. If after 4 weeks the pain is not getting better, thatâs a sign to re-evaluate the treatment plan.
The good news, sciatica during pregnancy is rarely forever. That said, moving your body consistently to prevent any flare-ups down the road is key.
Our team of expert physical therapists compiled 17 stretches and exercises that are safe for pregnancy and clinically proven to relieve sciatica pain from standing, sitting, in bed, or even lying on the floor.
How Do You Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy
The last thing you want to endure is sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy. While pregnant, youll deal with insomnia, stress, chemical imbalances, and much more. So, debilitating pain isnt necessarily doing you any favors.
Whether youve experienced sciatica prior to your pregnancy or this is your first flare up, youre seeking answers. Youre probably wondering what causes sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy, and maybe even whether sciatica can harm the baby. You probably also want to know how long it will last, along with any advice on how to relieve sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy.
Throughout the remainder of this article, we will answer all this and more. Lets start with a textbook definition of what sciatica is, for those who arent as familiar.
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Ways To Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy
FEELING PAIN RUNNING FROM YOUR BUTT TO LEG? COULD IT BE; SCIATICA? HERES A SCOOP AT WHAT IS SCIATICA; IN PREGNANCY AND HOW RELIEVE SCIATIC NERVE PAIN DURING PREGNANCY.
If you are in your second or third trimester of pregnancy, you know by now that there are more to pregnancy than the happy firsts like joy of being pregnant, first baby kick and not-so-happy firsts like morning sickness, Heartburn;or;Constipation.
But who would have a thought about sciatica in pregnancy? Not to worry, there are 10 ways to relieve sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy.
Causes Diagnosis And Coping Tips
You dont have to be pregnant to experience sciatica, but when you are pregnant, sciatica is a particularly unwelcome addition to the experience of growing a baby. Fortunately, there are things you can do to relieve the pain or discomfort of sciatica during pregnancy.
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Why Do You Have Sciatica During Pregnancy
50 to 80% of women get lower back pain during the duration of their pregnancy. So if youre having sciatica like symptoms, youre not alone!
During pregnancy, there is an increase in the hormone called relaxin. This hormone is specifically responsible for relaxing ligaments. Without relaxin, your pelvic area during pregnancy would not stretch and loosen to accommodate your growing baby.
Relaxin is especially helpful for when it comes time to give birth. Without it, birth would be much more painful. Thank you relaxin!
But, with loosened ligaments comes pain with one or multiple muscles in your lower back and buttocks.
Since the sciatic nerve is located under the uterus and extends down to your legs, your growing uterus and baby can put pressure on it. Sciatica during pregnancy is literally a pain in the butt!
Throughout 9 months of pregnancy, sciatica pain will worsen in severity as your due date approaches. Once you give birth, the pressure your baby puts on your sciatic nerve will be released and hopefully the pain will significantly improve.
How To Find Sciatica Relief While Pregnant
Conservative measures are most often used to treat sciatica pain in pregnancy. The following are some at-home and noninvasive treatments that can offer sciatica pain relief during pregnancy:
Physical therapy. Pregnancy changes the alignment of your pelvis due to the loosening of ligaments and change in your center of gravity. Physical therapists will guide you on a therapeutic program that focuses on building strength, flexibility and optimizing good posture.
Warm heating pad. Heat can help calm an irritated nerve.
Massage. Massages by certified prenatal massage therapists consist mainly of light-stroke massage to help relax muscle tension.
Low-impact exercise. Stretching and exercises like yoga, pilates and swimming help with maintaining flexibility and strengthening muscles.
Over-the-counter medication.Tylenol can be used intermittently to help with pain.
Alternative treatment. Acupuncture, chiropractic work and reiki are examples of some alternative treatments that may help provide sciatica pain relief during pregnancy.
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How To Prevent Sciatica During Pregnancy
The best way to prevent sciatica pain in pregnancy is to stay fit and build strong core and lumbar muscles. . Some great ways to get in some moderate, pregnancy-safe exercise include:
- Yoga or pilates
Erin Nance, MD, is a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon and hand surgeon. She specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery and conservative treatment, and has a focus on treating common injuries and conditions in women. She practices in New York City, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Visit her at NanceMD.com.
When To Call Your Doctor
Mild sciatica will go away with time and resolves with childbirth. However, you should call your doctor when self-care and home remedy measures fail to help symptoms or if the pain gets worse, becomes severe, or lasts more than a week.
Get immediate medical help for sudden severe pain in your low back or leg, accompanied by muscle weakness of the leg, or if you have problems controlling your bowels or bladder. These might be signs of a condition called cauda equina syndrome, which is a medical emergency and requires surgical intervention.
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Seated Figure Four Stretch
For this exercise, just sit normally in a chair and cross an ankle over the opposite knee without putting any torque in the upper back. Then gently bend forward at the hips, leading with the chest, and keep your head up, lean forward until you feel the stretch in your lower back and hips. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute and then switch sides. This stretch really works to loosen the hips and relieve sciatica pain.
Best Exercises For Sciatica During Pregnancy
Sciatica during pregnancy is just another annoying body change we have to deal with along with many others. I want to share with you my five best exercises for sciatica during pregnancy so that you do not have to continually suffer through this pain.
You will find these exercises further down. But first, I want to chat a bit more about sciatica and to answer some of the more common questions.
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Posterior Pelvic Pain May Mimic Sciatica In Pregnancy
A common type of pregnancy-related painposterior pelvic pain may cause symptoms that are similar to sciatica. Posterior pelvic pain is common during pregnancy and may affect up to 76% of pregnant women. This pain may also be experienced up to 2 years after childbirth in 5% to 8.5% of new mothers.3
- In posterior pelvic pain, a stabbing, dull, shooting, and/or burning pain may be felt in the posterior pelvic area.
- The pain may extend into the buttock and radiate to the groin and back of the thigh.
- This pain, unlike sciatica, is often impossible to locate precisely and may change in type or area affected as the pregnancy progresses.3
The exact cause of posterior pelvic pain is not well understood and the pain may result due to hormonal, metabolic, or other biomechanical changes that occur during pregnancy.
How To Relieve Your Sciatica During Pregnancy
Pregnancy comes with a host of complaints and problems. Growing another human being is serious business. You have to eat right, exercise, lose sleep and go to constant baby appointments Not to mention the pain of childbirth.
On top of all this, the weight of your baby causes daily aches and pains in your body.
One of the worst and annoying pains you can experience during pregnancy is sciatic nerve pain. Sciatica during pregnancy can range on a pain scale from annoying to excruciating pain .
Although sciatica during pregnancy can be horrible, it can also be managed. I experienced sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy and it was torture.
But luckily, I found ways to manage and help my sciatica pain during pregnancy. And you can too!
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you click on them to make a purchase I will earn a commission.; Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases.; The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
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Sciatica Pain Relief During Pregnancy Starts With An Actual Sciatica Diagnosis
If in fact the shooting pain down your leg is sciaticaâyouâd fall into the 1 percent of women that need sciatica pain relief during pregnancy.
However, that pain in your lower back may not actually be sciatica.
âA lot of people come to physical therapy with a prescription while theyâre pregnant for any sort of back or hip pain and itâs assumed to be sciatica. Thatâs why the most important thing to do during a virtual examination with a new patient is confirm a sciatica diagnosis so the treatment plan addresses the true root cause.â
While sciatica during pregnancy may be rare, that lower back pain youâre experiencing is extremely commonâand treatable! Between 50 and 80 percent of pregnant people experience lower back or even shooting pain in the third trimester. Symptoms of sacroiliac joint dysfunction or piriformis syndromeâthe pain in your low back or hip due to too much or too little movement in joints of your pelvisâcan feel like sciatica but aren’t.
The first step to feeling better is getting the right diagnosis. Itâs critical to first rule out other common causes of hip pain during pregnancy during an in-person or virtual physical therapy evaluation to confirm a true sciatica diagnosis.
âMore on Motherly about sciatica during pregnancy, MRIs, and other frequently asked questions.
Pregnancy Sciatica May Occur Due To Herniated Discs
When a pregnant woman experiences sciatica, it is most likely due to a herniated disc in her lower spine that affects the spinal nerve roots. This occurrence is rare and may take place in one in 10,000 pregnancies.1
While a herniated disc itself may not develop because of the pregnancy, research suggests that this condition is higher in pregnant women above 30 years of age,1 which is a common age group for herniated disc problems.2
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What Is Sciatica Pain During Pregnancy
Sciatica is caused by irritation of your sciatic nerve which starts in the lumbar or lower spine and ends in the thigh. With sciatica you may have pain in your buttocks and hip that travels to your thigh.
Sciatica is one of those less commonly spoken about pregnancy symptoms. But when you get it, you know it, and it can really cause you pain and inconvenience. Some women have such severe sciatica when walking and also while sleeping.
Sciatica is also known as lumbosacral radicular syndrome.
Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can cause a lot of pain in the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back all the way down to the feet. Sciatica is a condition in which the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or agitated, causing shooting pain, tingling, and numbness throughout the sciatic nerve. Some women experience this pain during pregnancy, commonly during the second and third trimesters.
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What Causes Sciatica To Flare Up
In the past, rest was recommended for back pain and associated conditions but these days, it is understood that sitting and lying down can actually cause sciatica symptoms to flare up. This is because prolonged sitting, such as when youre sat at a desk or driving, can put pressure on the disks in the lower back, which can sometimes be the cause of sciatica symptoms. Lying down is unlikely to make your symptoms worse, but it is unlikely that it will help you get better, which is why staying as active as possible is recommended.
Pregnancy doesnt usually;cause;sciatica but it can make things more uncomfortable. This could be because weight gain and increased fluid retention can put pressure on the sciatic nerve as it runs through your pelvis, pinching it and causing pain. Pregnancy also causes your;centre of gravity to shift forward, which can lead to the muscles in your bottom tensing up and putting further pressure on the nerve.;
Most women dont see symptoms until their third trimester, and the pain can be intermittent, depending on how much pressure is being put on the nerve. Symptoms can sometimes continue until a few months after giving birth, once the weight and fluid of pregnancy has been mostly lost.
Stretches For Sciatic Nerve Pain
Light back stretching is a great way to relieve sciatic nerve pain. If youre further along in your pregnancy, remember to avoid any stretches that involve lying on your backthis causes your uterus to press against a large vein that leads to your heart, which can make you feel lightheaded or weak.;
Seated Piriformis Stretch
The piriformis muscle is deep in your glutes, and spasms in these muscles can lead to sciatica pain.;
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground
- Lift your left leg, and place your left ankle on your right knee
- Lean forward slowly, keeping your back straight
- Youll start to feel the stretch in your lower back and glutes
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
- Repeat with your right leg
This yoga pose is popular for a reasonits meant to be restful and restorative, as well as to give your back and thigh muscles a good stretch. Prenatal yoga in general is an excellent, low impact way for you to stay active, and relieve pain, while pregnant.;
- Kneel on a soft surface, like carpet or a yoga mat
- Touch your big toes together and spread your knees apart to make room for your belly
- Keep your back straight, and rest your forehead on the floor
- Reach your arms out straight, past your head, while you inhale
- Sit back on your legs, bringing your bottom towards your heels, while you exhale
- Keep taking deep breaths, stretching your arms farther forward with each breath
- Walk your hands back slowly to return to a kneeling position
Standing Hamstring Stretch
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Get A Prenatal Massage
Prenatal massages are not only relaxing, but they can also help ease sciatica pain. Because prenatal massages can loosen up tissue, massages are ideal for sciatic pain that is triggered by muscle tension.;Read more about the amazing benefits of prenatal massage in this post.
Note: Its always a good idea to get cleared by your OB or midwife before getting a prenatal massage.
Other Sciatica Stretches Include:
Table stretch Stand facing a table with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Leanforward with your hands on the table. Keep your arms straight and your backflat. Pull your hips away from the table until you feel a nice stretch in thelower back and back of the legs.
Pigeon pose in a chair This pose specifically targets the piriformis muscle. Try to find a chair in which you can sit comfortably with both feet flat on the floor and your thighs roughly parallel to the floor. Place your right ankle near your left knee and try to relax your right knee toward the floor. Repeat on the left side.
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What You Can Do To Relieve Sciatica
From the What to Expect editorial team and;Heidi Murkoff,;author of;What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our;medical review and editorial policy.