According to Healthline, between 50-80% of women experience low back pain during pregnancy. Low back pain is often sciatica or associated with sciatica since symptoms include muscle tension, difficulty walking, sharp, shooting pain and pain along your buttocks, traveling down the back of your leg.
Many pregnant women experience this irritating shooting lower back and leg pain, resembling sciatica. The frequency of sciatica pain during pregnancy increases as the pregnancy progresses and is most common in the third trimester.
OrthoIndy non-operative spine physician, Dr. Meredith Langhorst explains why sciatica nerve pain happens during pregnancy, how to avoid it and treatment options.
What is sciatica pain during pregnancy?
According to Dr. Langhorst, “Sciatica during pregnancy is due to the increasing amounts of the hormone Relaxin in the mom’s system that causes the ligaments to loosen in preparation for childbirth.”
Although loosening ligaments is a normal occurrence, it shifts your center of gravity, which can cause the sciatic nerve to become inflamed or pinched.
What is sciatica nerve pain?
Sciatic nerve pain starts in the spine. The spine is made up of 24 bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another. These bones connect to protect the spinal cord. The seven small vertebrae that begin at the base of the skull and form the neck comprise the cervical spine.
Your spinal cord and nerves travel through the spinal canal carrying messages between your brain and muscles. The intervertebral discs between your vertebrae are flexible, flat and round discs and are about a half-inch thick. They act as shock absorbers when you walk or run and allow motion between the vertebrae.
How to Avoid Sciatic Nerve Pain in Pregnancy
Although sciatica pain in pregnancy is very common, there are several home remedies to try that might help you avoid sciatica entirely.
Some of these remedies include:
- Avoid heavy lifting
- Gain weight slowly
- Pregnancy sciatica stretches
- Try yoga
- Get a massage
- Stay active
- Minimize standing for long periods of time
Sciatic Pain Relief During Pregnancy
Fortunately, sciatic pain can usually be improved with a comprehensive, conservative care program. Dr. Langhorst suggests trying the following to seek relief for sciatic pain.
- Manual manipulation: A chiropractor can help treat sciatic pain; however, make sure he or she is aware you are pregnant.
- Physical therapy: Work with a physical therapist to come up with an exercise program that combines stretching and strengthening or try the exercises below.
- Pelvic tilts and kegels: Starting pelvic tilts and kegels early in pregnancy and continuing can help keep your pelvic floor engaged.
- Lay on your side: When resting or sleeping, lay on your side and use a firm mattress.
- Heat: The use of a heating pad can help relieve soreness and for pain that is persistent.
- Pain medication: Always consult a physician before taking pain medication during pregnancy. Typically, Tylenol is safe for most pregnant women to take.
Exercises to Help Sciatica During Pregnancy
Treatment for sciatica pain during pregnancy is not limited to at home treatment plans. Exercise is also highly encouraged for pregnant women.
Some of those exercises include:
- Supine bridge
- Supine posterior pelvic tilt
- Supine march with posterior pelvic tilt
- Hooklying single knee to chest stretch
“The good news is that sciatica often resolves after the baby is born and you can enjoy your time with your new little addition to the family,” Dr. Langhorst said. However, if your sciatica is still causing issues make an appointment with an OrthoIndy non-operative pain management physician today or learn more about neck and back pain treatment at OrthoIndy.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Langhorst, please call 317.802.2879 or learn more about treatment options for neck and back pain.
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