Also known as sciatica pain, sciatica is pain on one side of the buttocks and leg. The sharp or burning pain shoots down the sciatic nerve path to the back of the leg and into the foot. It can also cause numbness, a pins and needles feeling, or even weakness. Walking, standing or sitting can be affected.
Sciatica pain during pregnancy happens to about 50 to 80 percent of women. Primarily diagnosed by its symptoms, most women experience it at least once, commonly during the second and third trimesters. Given how common this issue is, let's explore the causes and symptoms and then arm you with four amazing stretches that will help you deal with sciatica pain during your pregnancy.
What Causes Sciatica During Pregnancy?
The sciatic nerve originates as several nerve roots which come off the spinal cord. The term sciatica can refer to symptoms caused by injury to any of these nerve roots, or less commonly, the sciatic nerve itself. This can include:
- Lumbar spine problems, including a bulging or herniated disc
- Bone changes such as spinal narrowing (stenosis)
All of these conditions can cause increased pressure on the spine. The developing fetus also increases pressure on the sciatic nerve. In addition, there are increases in pregnancy hormones, such as relaxin, which can cause ligaments to become loose and stretch around the pelvic area.
The baby’s weight may cause sacroiliac joint trouble or piriformis syndrome due to increased pressure on the hip joints and pelvis. Even the baby’s position can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica pain during pregnancy happens to about 50 to 80 percent of women
As your baby inches towards his or her birth weight, the changes in your baby and in your own weight can cause the position of your muscles and bones to change. These bodily changes can cause sciatica during pregnancy. Symptoms include:
- Pain in one side of your buttocks or leg or down the back of your thigh to your foot
- Sharp, shooting, or burning pain along the sciatic nerve path
- Numbness or weakness in the affected leg or foot
- Difficulty or pain while walking, standing, or sitting
Managing Sciatica Pain During Pregnancy
While many women may succumb to sciatica pain during pregnancy, you don't have to be among them. Here are ways you can avoid a potential run-in with sciatica.
- Avoid heavy lifting.
- Don't stand for long time periods.
- When sitting, shift your weight periodically. Sitting too long to one side of your lower body can press down on the sciatic nerve and cause pain.
- Choose supportive clothing like supportive shoes and pregnancy girdles to lift the uterus.
- Many find relief with heat or cold applied to the painful area. If needed, ask your health care provider if you can take acetaminophen to lessen pregnancy sciatica pain (Note: Avoid most other over-the-counter pain medications when pregnant.)
- If pregnancy sciatica pain persists, becomes severe, or increases in frequency, let your health care provider know. Visiting a chiropractor may also help.
- Exercise can also be helpful. Try Swimming, which can ease sciatica pain during pregnancy since water supports the baby’s weight, and yoga. Care should be taken as you exercise while pregnant, particularly if you were not active prior to your pregnancy. If in doubt, discuss which exercises might be right for you with your physician.
Stretches To Ease Sciatica Pain
To get temporary relief from sciatica during pregnancy, you can try these four simple stretches.
The Table Stretch
This stretch relieves sciatica pain in the back, buttocks and back legs muscles.
- Stand and face the table with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
- Leaning forward with hands on the table, keep your arms straight and your back flat.
- Pull your hips away from the table until a nice stretch is felt in the lower back and back of your legs.
- Moving your hips side to side will increase the stretch in your lower back and hips. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat as needed.
Targeting the hip rotators and flexors, the Pigeon Pose is a yoga pose that can be modified for pregnancy.
- With hands and knees on the floor, slide your right knee forward to between your hands.
- Slide your left leg back keeping your foot on the floor.
- You can do this with a rolled towel or yoga block under your right hip. This makes the stretch easier and allows room for your stomach.
- Leaning forward over your right leg, slowly lower yourself toward the ground with a pillow for support under your head and arms.
- Hold for one minute and repeat on the other side.
This stretch is good if you can do it several times a day.
The Hip Flexor Stretch
This helps the muscles that are along the front of the hip. It is not uncommon to have tight hip flexors during pregnancy. That tightness can affect pelvic alignment and posture which leads to pain.
- On your hands and knees step one foot in front so that your hip and knee are at a 90-degree angle.
- Shift your weight forward until a stretch in the front of your back hip and leg is felt. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Glute and Hamstring Foam Rolling
This exercise helps massage and relax the muscles and connective tissue. It targets the hamstrings, calf muscles, glutes and piriformis.
- With the foam roller on the ground, sit on the foam roller.
- Support yourself with your hands behind you.
- Cross one foot over the opposite into a figure four position.
- Slowly move back and forth over the foam roller until you reach another tender area.
- Continue this move for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.