Sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy can be at the very least uncomfortable and at the worst debilitating. Consider these tips for finding sciatica relief.
There are many aches and pains the come along with pregnancy, many of which are totally normal as your body expands and adapts to weight gain and an ever-growing uterus. Some women experience sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy, and speaking from experience, sciatica can be mild at best and debilitating at its worst.
Whether many women realize it or not, sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy begins in your lower back, then radiates down your body to your glutes and hips, and even down your leg to your feet. Sciatica is generally more intense on one side and can range from mild to severe during pregnancy, manifesting as a dull deep ache or a sharp radiating pain.
Though pregnancy itself doesn’t cause sciatica, the symptoms of pregnancy can. Weight gain, an expanding uterus and extra fluid can put extra pressure on the sciatic nerve in your lower spine or where it passes through the pelvis. Tight muscles in your back or glutes caused by weight imbalance by a growing bump in the front can also pinch the sciatic nerve. Also, in the final months of pregnancy when most babies transition to the head-down position, your baby may rest his/her head directly on the sciatic nerve.
Related: If you are a pregnant athlete (especially a runner) dealing with sciatica, check out this post for insight on whether or not to run with back pain, as well as how to prevent it.
For some women, like myself, sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy is the worst symptom they deal with. So if you are one of those suffering, here are some tips on how you can find some relief from sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy.
Do Yoga Stretches
Practicing yoga throughout pregnancy is a great idea, but if that’s too much of a commitment, you can just focus on certain yoga stretches that target the sciatic nerve.
Pigeon Pose (photo source)
You can do this pose on the floor using a block or folded blanket as support. Or one of my favorite ways to do the pigeon pose in the third trimester is by propping my bent leg on the back of a couch or sturdy chair.
Rock the Baby/Happy Baby Pose (photo source)
This move feels amazing pregnant, as it helps to massage your lower back as you slowly rock back and forth.
Flat Back Foldover/Table Stretch (photo source)
I often will stop around the house and hold onto something sturdy about waist-high, then push my glutes back and rock my hips slightly from side to side. Not only is it a good stretch, but it also temporarily removes the weight of your belly.
Seated Piriformis Stretch (photo source)
This stretch can be as intense in the glute area as you want to make it. You can also hold onto a sturdy post and sit back into this stretch to go even deeper than the chair version.
Avoid Posterior Chain Movements
Looking back on my sciatica experiences, I pinpointed posterior chain movements such as tire flips and deadlifts as a primary trigger for me. If you are exercising while pregnant and experience sciatic nerve pain, be sure to take a look at your exercise movements and reduce any that focus on posterior strength.
Rolling out while pregnant will help to relax tight muscles that may be contributing to sciatica. I focus on rolling out my glutes, IT band and hamstrings to help relieve the pressure on my sciatic nerve. I use both a foam roller on the floor and a trigger point ball while standing against a wall. Both are effective, but because of the trigger point ball’s size, it’s able to get deeper and closer to my sciatic nerve.
Visit a Chiropractor Regularly
I cannot say enough good things about visiting a chiropractor regularly, especially during pregnancy. Between the weight gain, expanding belly and tight muscles, your body doesn’t always adapt and adjust to all the changes well. It’s easy for your spine to get out of alignment, simply adding to the pain and pressure you’re already feeling. The SI joint is where the sacrum (the bone just above your tailbone) meets your hip bones. A chiropractor will hone in on this area during pregnancy and adjust you accordingly to help relieve any pain or pressure.
Take Baths with Epsom Salt
Baths are a great way to relax and unwind while pregnant, but the warmth of the water paired with Epsom salt help to alleviate sore muscles and lower back pain. Epsom salt is made from the mineral magnesium sulfate, of which many pregnant women become deficient. Though it’s highly debatable, some believe that Epsom salt baths can help to restore the magnesium content in pregnant women.
Use Freezer Packs or a Heating Pad
Sometimes, it’s a guessing game as to whether ice or heat will work best to ease your sciatic nerve pain. Often, it’s a combination of the two that is most effective. Using a freezer pack will help to lessen the inflammation around your sciatic nerve—and a bit of numbing will provide you with some temporary relief as well. On the other hand, using a heating pad (or warm bath) can also help to relax the muscles in the back, glutes and legs that are compressing the nerve. Doing light stretching after heat therapy is ideal once your muscles have warmed and relaxed.
Don’t Sit for too Long
Though standing for too long during the third trimester makes my feet achy, sitting for a long amount of time is not the right answer either. When I sit for too long, my hips and glutes tighten and feel achy when I stand. Humans weren’t designed to sit for prolonged periods of time. Though of course, when you’re pregnant, standing for long periods of time isn’t ideal. I’ve found that when I need to rest, if I stretch out my legs in a recliner and ensure I’m not sitting at a 45 degree angle but closer to a 60 degree angle, it helps tremendously.
Schedule a Prenatal Massage
Prenatal massages are great for not only relaxing your mind, but the muscles surrounding your sciatic nerve as well. Be sure to tell your massage therapist where your pain is radiating and she can focus on gentle massages that will help release the pressure on your sciatic nerve.
Have you experienced sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy? If so, what helped you?