Sciatica during pregnancy is an extremely common complaint from expectant mothers. However, contrary to what your doctor probably told you, there ARE ways to relieve it to an extent, even when heavily pregnant!
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How can I tell if I have sciatica while pregnant?
Sciatica is most common in the second and third trimesters when the growing baby puts pressure on the spine, causing a compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It starts at the bottom of your spine, runs through your buttock and down the back of your leg, all the way to your toes.
Sciatica differs from other back or leg pains that are common in pregnancy. You’ll notice that the pain often feels sharp and shooting and will often run down your leg. Sometimes, sciatica affects only one part of the leg, like the buttock or calf.
The people I work with often describe sciatica as being “stabbed with a hot poker”. So, as you can imagine, pain from sciatica during pregnancy can be really severe at times.
Sciatica during pregnancy can be confusing, as aches and pains all over the body are so common when you’re carrying such a lot of extra weight! However, you can usually tell that what you are experiencing is true sciatica by the sheer severity of the pain.
You may also feel pins and needles or numbness along with the pain. This is another indicator of “true” sciatica. The pins and needles and numbness usually occur in the feet or toes, but you might notice your calf going numb, too.
Why do pins and needles occur with sciatica? Find out HERE!
What causes sciatica during pregnancy?
There are so many changes that occur to the body during pregnancy, but increased body weight and changes in posture are usually responsible for sciatica when pregnant.
Watch the video below for a great explanation of this:
Do I need an MRI scan for sciatica during pregnancy?
Sciatica during pregnancy is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms. However, if you have any “worrying” symptoms (like private region numbness or loss of bladder/bowel control) you might need to be reviewed by a specialist.
You should also get immediate attention from a doctor if you notice your legs growing weaker all of a sudden. This can happen when the nerve is so compressed that the muscles don’t receive the signals they need to “work” properly.
Read about when an MRI scan for sciatica might be needed HERE.
How common is sciatica during pregnancy?
So common that over 50% of women will experience sciatica during pregnancy!
Although it is extremely common, the general information online about sciatica during pregnancy is poor. That’s why I wrote this article; to clear a few things up and make some suggestions for anyone suffering from nagging sciatica while pregnant.
I find that most women who suffer from sciatica during pregnancy are told to just grit their teeth and bare it! When you’re told you need to just wait for the baby to come before you’re going to be out of pain, it doesn’t exactly relieve the pain, does it??
You’ll be pleased to know that there ARE things we can do to relieve some of your symptoms.
Did I do anything wrong to get sciatica during pregnancy?
Sciatica during pregnancy is often just a fact of life – it occurs as a direct result of an increased load on the front of your body.
This leads to great pressure through the spine and discs. If you have a very small, usually harmless disc bulge, it could be pushed towards the sciatica nerve, causing the sciatic symptoms.
Don’t worry – sciatica during pregnancy usually does resolve after you give birth.
However, there are still some measures you can take WHILE pregnant to ease your pain and improve your symptoms.
Will sciatica during pregnancy affect my baby?
The sciatica itself will not affect your baby at all. However, make sure you stay active despite the sciatica during pregnancy – you need to be sure that stress levels are kept under control and you stay healthy while carrying your child.
Try to relax using some of the techniques from this article HERE.
What’s the best way to treat sciatica during pregnancy?
#1 – Wear a Pregnancy Girdle
It might sound uncomfortable, but a pregnancy girdle may actually lift your bump and distribute the weight of your tummy more evenly.
This will have the effect of taking pressure off the spine and that could help ease your sciatica.
#2 – It’s OK to Rest!
Although I said it’s important to stay active even when suffering from sciatica during pregnancy, it’s important to get your down-time too as suffering from a painful problem can make you stressed and tired.
Try having a lay down on your side; lying on the side of your non-painful leg.
#3 – Try Hot or Cold Therapy
There is lots of evidence behind cold as a treatment for pain, stress and even excess weight!
The question I most commonly get asked about this is: “If sciatica is coming from my back, should I put the cold on my back or leg?”
The answer is: whatever suits you, but personally I would begin with the back.
- Your back will likely be tight and sore when suffering from sciatica during pregnancy. The cold compress will help to dull the pain.
- The direct cold treatment may help to ease inflammation around the problematic nerve in the spine.
- Your back is a central part of your body – there is some evidence to show that treating a central area of the body will have a global pain-relieving effect on the entire body.
If you opt for heat you don’t leave it on for extended periods and you don’t let it get too hot. It’s best to only apply heat or cold for a maximum of 15 minutes at a time.
#4 – Stretch the buttock on JUST THE NON-PAINFUL side
Try this stretch from a chair, ONLY on your non-painful side. Now, this sounds crazy, but it’s one of the techniques I use with clients all the time to give them significant pain relief.
You may notice a rapid improvement in your symptoms.
It is important to not stretch the painful side at all! Stretching the painful side only AGGRAVATES the sciatic nerve. This is where so many physio’s and other healthcare professionals get it wrong. By stretching the painful side, you’re just stopping the nerve from settling down and making matters worse.
Hold the stretch below for 30-seconds, on the non-painful side only. Repeat 4-5 times on that side each morning.
You could also try the exercises from this video, where I demonstrate another great way to get sciatica pain relief which will also work during pregnancy:
#5 – Try the anti-inflammatory diet!
You can try making some substitutes in your diet for a rapid improvement in whole-body inflammation, which will then lead to less pain from sciatica during pregnancy.
Sciatica during pregnancy can make an already confusing and stressful time even more so! Luckily, almost all of the information on this site still applies for those suffering from sciatica during pregnancy, so you can follow the advice and guidance here to ease any stubborn sciatica.
Try to remember that the pain SHOULD resolve rapidly after you give birth, but there are things you can do to ease sciatica while pregnant.
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