Understanding Sciatica During Pregnancy
You may be experiencing many physical firsts with your pregnancy. Baby flutters, a growing bump, and… sciatica? Radiating back and leg pain is very common during pregnancy. The following information will help you understand sciatica and get tips to manage it during your pregnancy.
What Is Sciatica, Exactly?
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, running from your lower back into your leg and foot. It sends messages that let you move and feel sensations in your leg. When the sciatic nerve is irritated, you experience sciatica. This refers to nerve pain that starts in the low back and travels down the leg. Some people describe sciatica as sharp, shooting, or burning pain. During pregnancy, it most commonly occurs in the third trimester, but you can experience it in any trimester. Sciatic pain is often isolated to one side of your body, though it can affect both sides.
Why Sciatica Strikes During Pregnancy
The following are a few reasons you may experience sciatica during pregnancy:
Pregnancy weight gain. As you gain weight (which is normal, healthy, and expected!) and retain more fluids, this can put pressure on the sciatic nerve in the pelvis, causing irritation.
Expanding uterus. As your baby grows and your uterus stretches, it can press down on the sciatic nerve.
Shift in your center of gravity. Your growing belly and breasts shift your center of gravity forward, which changes your posture. As a result, the muscles in your buttocks, low back, and pelvis may tense up and pinch the sciatic nerve.
Baby’s position. As your baby settles lower into your pelvis during the third trimester, their head can place pressure on the sciatic nerve.
While uncommon, pain that travels down the legs along with numbness in the thighs or groin, loss of strength in the leg, or inability to urinate can indicate a more serious problem. Consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Say Goodbye to Your Sciatica
Although sciatica in pregnancy is common, there are ways you can help prevent and reduce it:
Take a load off. We know this is easier said than done, but when you have a moment, rest in a comfortable position to take pressure off your low back and sciatic nerve.
Change your sleep position. Sleep in a side-lying position on your pain-free side.
Avoid sitting for long periods. Get up and take walk breaks or do some gentle stretches. This helps to prevent muscles in your buttocks or low back from getting too tense and tight.
Exercise regularly. Do low back, hip, and glute stretches to reduce tension. Try: child’s pose, hamstring stretches, and a seated Figure 4 stretch.
Talk with your Hinge Health physical therapist or coach about which exercises may be right for you.
If pain is severe and limiting your ability to perform daily activities, speak with your doctor about other treatments, including pregnancy-safe medications.
Sciatica refers to pain that starts in your low back and travels down your leg(s).
Sciatica commonly occurs during pregnancy due to changes in your body such as weight gain, an expanding uterus, and a shift in your center of gravity.
There are conservative ways to begin managing your sciatic pain during pregnancy such as rest, exercise, and avoiding prolonged sitting.
el Barzouhi, A., Vleggeert-Lankamp, C. L.A.M., Lycklama à Nijeholt, G. J., Van der Kallen, B. F., van den Hout, W. B., Jacobs, W. C.H., Koes, B. W., & Peul, W. C. (2013). Magnetic resonance imaging in follow-up assessment of sciatica. New England Journal of Medicine, 368, 999-1007. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1209250
How to Handle Sciatica During Pregnancy. (December 31, 2019). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-handle-sciatica-during-your-pregnancy/