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Sciatica During Pregnancy: How to Relieve Pain

Being pregnant can be loads of fun, with baby showers, cute maternity clothing, and the preparation for your new baby. But if you have cravings, mood swings, or sciatica, pregnancy can feel more like a chore. 

There are many things that can be frustrating about being pregnant, but having sciatica pain might be one of the worst. Like a headache, it can completely derail your plans for the day and make trying to sleep at night miserable. But what exactly is sciatica pain during pregnancy? If you’re not sure if you have it or are looking for sciatica pain relief, read on. We define what it is and ways to ease it below.  

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It runs through the back of your knees and the muscles in your lower leg. When your sciatic nerve gets pinched, bruised, or injured, it can cause pain in your lower back, legs, pelvis, and heel. This pain is known as sciatica. Sciatic pain can be triggered by:

  • Injury, such as a pelvic fracture
  • Cold weather
  • Bad posture
  • Ruptured intervertebral disk
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Herniated disc with nerve root compression
  • Pregnancy

Sciatica pain usually only occurs on one side of the body at a time, although some people feel sciatic pain on alternating sides. If you have an injury that affects only one side of your body, you will most likely feel the pain on that side.

If you experience sciatica in pregnancy, your growing uterus may be the cause. As your uterus swells to accommodate your baby, it puts pressure on your organs and bones. 

Certain parts of your body may start to hurt as it tries to balance the weight and pressure of the baby. Many women report feeling weakness and pain in their hips, back, legs, and joints as they progress through the trimesters. But how can you tell if what you’re feeling is sciatica pain? 

Sciatica pain during pregnancy usually occurs in these areas:

  • Lower back
  • Back of leg (raising a straightened leg will usually increase the pain)
  • Heel 
  • Foot 
  • Toe

Sciatica pain tends to run down those focal points. If you feel pain that starts in your lower back and travels down one leg into your knee, it’s probably sciatica. If you feel pain in the back of your knee that wraps around your heel and settles in your toes, that could also be sciatica. 

The major culprit of sciatica pain in pregnancy is an enlarged uterus. 

You may already know that as your uterus grows larger, it becomes harder to wait between restroom visits. This is because the uterus puts pressure on your bladder, making it hard to hold a normal amount of urine like you used to.

A growing uterus also puts pressure on your pelvic bones, spine, and hips, affecting your sciatic nerve, which can cause sciatica. If you’re pregnant and experiencing symptoms of sciatica, your pregnancy is probably the cause.

If you have poor posture or already have an injury that would affect your sciatic nerve, then you may already be experiencing sciatica; pregnancy may make the pain worse.

If you have sciatica pain during pregnancy, you are not alone. Sciatica and pregnancy go hand in hand. About two-thirds of all women develop sciatica during pregnancy. 

Once you have determined that you have sciatica, you can try different remedies to relieve the pain. Some simple sciatica remedies include stretching, gentle exercises, and massages. 

These stretches are safe for sciatica during pregnancy

  • Seated piriformis stretch: Sit in a chair and lift your left leg to place your foot on the opposite knee. Lean forward slowly until you feel a stretch in your lower back and butt. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then switch to your right leg.
  • Child’s pose: Kneel on the floor, touch your big toes together and spread your knees apart. Lean forward and place your palms flat on the ground, walking them forward until you are fully stretched out on the floor. Breathe deeply until you feel your back stretch out, then slowly walk yourself back to a sitting position.
  • Standing hamstring stretch: Stand with your feet flat on the ground. Lift your left leg and prop your heel on a sturdy surface so your leg is straight out in front of you and toes are pointed at the ceiling. Gently bend forward to stretch your hamstring and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the right leg.
  • Kneeling lunges: Kneel on the floor and bring your left leg up so your thigh is parallel to the ground. Gently move your body weight forward to stretch your hip and thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch to the right leg. 

Try these gentle exercises for sciatica pain relief during pregnancy after you’ve discussed them with your doctor:

  • Walking
  • Stationary cycling
  • Yoga
  • Swimming

Be sure to talk to your doctor before doing any exercise while you’re pregnant. Every pregnancy is different, so your doctor may want you to avoid certain things for your health. Swimming can be especially beneficial because the water allows your body to be more buoyant, which can remove strain and pressure on your joints and bones while exercising.

Gentle massages can help relieve sciatica during pregnancy. Try these methods:

  • Tennis ball on the floor: Lie on your back and place a tennis ball under your lower back. Roll the ball around, massaging your back muscles. This is a good massage while you are in the early stages of pregnancy.
  • Tennis ball on the wall: Place a tennis ball between your back and the wall and roll the ball around. This massage works great for women who are in their third trimester.
  • Massage therapist: Light strokes on and around the lower back can do wonders for an inflamed and painful sciatic nerve. 

Be sure the massage therapist is not using strong or firm strokes, as that can be too deep and interfere with your pregnancy. If you are hiring a massage therapist for sciatic pain, try to find one who is experienced with pregnancy massages, because certain types of massage can cause early labor pains and contractions.

There are some other ways to relieve sciatica during pregnancy, such as:

  • Getting up and stretching between long periods of sitting
  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Correct posture
  • Warm bath

Although there are many remedies for sciatica, each pregnancy is unique to each mother. Some methods for sciatica pain relief during pregnancy will work better for you than others. Try all of them to find your favorites. Once you find out which methods work best for you, you can incorporate them into your daily schedule to ensure you stay on top of your pain and feel good.

If your sciatic pain is caused by your uterus putting pressure on your sciatic nerve, then the pain should go away after pregnancy. 

Some women have sciatica while pregnant, but the pregnancy isn’t the cause of the pain. If you experienced an injury during pregnancy or had an existing injury prior to pregnancy, then the sciatica pain may flare up every now and then after the pregnancy. You can still use the stretches and exercises after pregnancy to help relieve sciatica pain.

Doctors have associated a few other symptoms with sciatica and pregnancy. They will want to know if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Poor bladder control
  • Tingling, numbness, or the sensation of pins and needles in your legs
  • Weakness in your low back or legs
  • Burning sensation in your lower extremities
  • Pain that gets worse with coughing, sneezing, or moving

Let your doctor know about any of these symptoms at your next checkup. They may be signs you have a slipped disc or another complication. Be honest with your doctor, and keep track of your pain. If you have frequent episodes of sciatica during pregnancy or many other symptoms, track them in a journal so you can bring it to your doctor. 

Sciatica pain during pregnancy is common. The pain can occur at any time and can range from uncomfortable to debilitating. 

Carve out some time every day to let your body relax, either with a warm bath or any of the other listed remedies for sciatica pain during pregnancy. Sciatic pain is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, so give yourself time to relax and take the pressure off.

https://medlineplus.gov/sciatica.html

http://www.health.ri.gov/healthcare/about/paincare/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1895638/

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