How to Relieve Sciatica During Pregnancy

woman with sciatica during pregnancy practices yoga

First things first: Your Sciatic Nerve

The sciatic nerves are the largest nerves in the human body. Extending from the lower spine, through the hips, and down each leg, your sciatic nerves cover a ton of real estate in your lower body.

They are formed by the merging of 2 spinal nerves in the lumbar spine and 3 branching nerves in the sacrum. Together, these five nerves join to create the major highway for messages to be sent like cargo between the brain and the muscles of your thighs, calves, and feet.

When everything is working correctly, these messages enable walking and the stability of our entire base. Even the things that we take for granted—like the sensations in our thighs and feet—are transferred to the brain through this main canal of the sciatic nerve.

…But… What about when everything isn’t working correctly?

This crucial nerve can run into problems, though. In fact, it’s more common than you think: Millions of cases of sciatica are reported each year in the United States.

Unfortunately, the passageway through which this nerve travels in the hips is quite small. When there is narrowing or damage to this passageway, the sciatic nerve can become pinched. A pinched sciatic nerve often results in excruciating pain. Symptoms are usually localized in the lower back or hips or radiate from the lower back into the legs and feet. Numbness, tingling, burning sensations, and difficulty walking can all result.

Unraveling the Connection Between Pregnancy & Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is HUGE. So, huge in fact that it probably comes as no surprise that a wide variety of conditions and events can lead to sciatic nerve pain. Some of these circumstances include spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of spaces within the spine due to age-related degeneration. Falls, especially when combined with weakened or osteoporotic bones, can also lead to sciatica. And, although lesser known, pregnancy is a common cause of sciatica in women.

Occurring most commonly during the second or third trimester, sciatica during pregnancy is caused by the crushing strain that is placed on the pelvis. Along with the weight of the maturing fetus, water retention and swelling can also lead to condensed space within the mother’s skeleton.

Sciatica can be a debilitating complication for an expecting mom—making standing, sitting, or reclining in comfort an impossibility. Fortunately, there are simple solutions that can enable moms-to-be to achieve sciatica relief.

pregnant women performing yoga

Sciatica Relief During Pregnancy

Sciatica during pregnancy can seem hopeless. Luckily, there are some effective and pain-relieving techniques that you can use today. Because many medications are not safe during pregnancy, try some of these medication-free alternatives below:

  • See your local Chiropractor. Many people swear by their chiropractor, pregnant moms included. And, there are many chiropractors who specialize in working with pregnant women. A chiropractor will adjust your joints to relieve the pressure on your sciatic nerve. With a combination of spinal realignment and at-home modifications, a chiropractor can help you get through your term with comfort and ease.
  • Check out your local pool. Swimming offers many benefits to pregnant moms. The weightlessness created by floating in a pool can provide relief for the pressure created by the extra weight of pregnancy. Swimming is also a great form of aerobic exercise that spares the joints from the impact of walking or similar exercises. You may be concerned about the safety of swimming during pregnancy, but rest assured: swimming is safe for moms-to-be and their developing fetus.
  • Prenatal Yoga is where it’s at! Stretching is a time-tested method for relieving sciatica during pregnancy. There are a number of stretches that you can perform at home, on your own, or as needed. For example, the piriformis stretch is a widely successful method for relieving sciatic pain. During this stretch you will sit on the edge of a chair, starting with both feet on the ground. Lift the foot of the problematic side, and place that ankle on top of the opposite knee. When the ankle is in place, gently bend forward over your legs until you feel a good stretch in the buttocks. Stretching at home can be very effective, but going to a yoga studio where a specially trained teacher can help you is even better. Most yoga studios now offer specially designed classes for moms-to-be, so don’t hesitate to enroll in one of these!
  • Benefit from hot/cold therapy. The use of hot and cold applications can be very beneficial to the sciatic nerve. For some, a few days of cold followed by a few days of hot application may be right. Others may need hot and cold every other day. It is best to experiment with your options and determine which regimen will work best for you.

If these strategies still don’t help, don’t hesitate to contact a physician who may be able to give you a clearer picture of your condition and provide options for treatment. You and your baby deserve a pain-free, stress-free pregnancy, so don’t suffer with sciatic pain any longer.

At New York City Spine Surgery, our standard for excellent care means treating you as a whole person, and not just another spine disorder on a chart.

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