Pregnancy can cause a form of spinal compression which affects the sciatic nerve. During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin’s job is to relax your ligaments and prepare your pelvis for expansion during childbirth.
Unfortunately, loose ligaments and a growing uterus also shift your center of gravity which can pinch the sciatic nerve, leading to shooting pains down one or both legs.
Sciatic discomforts often increase during your pregnancy. Sadly, lower back pain and sciatic problems are quite common. Sciatica can occur at any stage, but most often develops in the third trimester.
As your baby and belly grow, the additional weight and your shifting posture put pressure on unstable joints and muscles. Sometimes the baby’s position may also be the cause of your sciatic nerve pain. This pain often comes and goes, but it can also be constant for some women. While it is uncomfortable for you can at least be relieved to know that this pain doesn’t hurt the baby.
What does sciatic pain feel like?
Sciatic nerve pain is a common complaint during pregnancy. Also called sciatica, or lumbar radiculopathy, it’s described as a “radiating pain” that travels from the sciatic nerve, located in the lower spine, down the back of your thigh. Many people also call this a Pinched nerve in their back or lower back during pregnancy. Discomfort is uncommon, but excruciating pain is not. Definitely talk to your doctor or chiropractor if it doesn’t go away or if it is too painful to participate in your daily life fully.
What causes Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the largest in your body and the main nerve in the legs. Sciatica occurs when the spine is compressed in some way which pinches the sciatic nerve causing inflammation, numbness, and pain running down one or both legs.
How can I relieve Sciatica during pregnancy?
There are gentle ways to reduce sciatic pain. Many find some relief doing the following gentle activities:
- Lay on your side with the painful side up to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. Relax and breathe deeply into the painful area. Make sure to put a pillow between your knees.
- Avoid standing for long periods of time. Keep moving or alternate sitting and standing.
- Go for a swim or walk waist high water. Float or recline with a noodle or floatie for support.
- Take warm showers or use warm compresses on the painful area.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects.
Chiropractic care by a pregnancy trained chiropractor (check out www.icpa4kids.com) is often very helpful in reducing sciatica and nerve pain during and after pregnancy. This gentle non invasive, drug free approach helps you manage the pain and shifting posture as your belly grows. It also helps you feel your best going into delivery, increasing the likelihood of a natural delivery and healthy postpartum recovery.
Is severe or unbearable sciatic pain normal?
Sciatica pains vary from mild to excruciating. You may also notice a tingling sensation in one part of your body and pain in another area. Symptoms often include:
- A burning sensation in the lower back and buttocks on one or both sides.
- Pain that travels from your pelvis down the back of your leg.
- A sudden jolt of pain that feels like an electric shock.
- Pain that worsens when you cough, sneeze, stand, or sit for long periods of time.
- Numbness, muscle weakness, or tingling in one leg or foot.
What is the best sleeping position to relieve sciatica during pregnancy?
Sleeping on your side is usually helpful. Alternate sides throughout the night, making sure to keep a pillow between your knees and ankles to support your hips and lower back. Many find a pregnancy pillow helps with this. Wedging a pillow under your belly also helps to reduce the pull on your lower back.
What can I take for sciatic pain during pregnancy?
Most doctors recommend avoiding medications or over the counter drugs during pregnancy. This is why many OBs and Midwives refer to pregnancy chiropractors for help with pain and discomfort during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Sticking to topical analgesic creams, especially Arnicare Gel also helps with the pain and stress on your ligaments during this time.
Is heat or ice better for sciatic pain during pregnancy?
Many prefer heat to relieve pain, but too much heat can increase inflammation. Using ice or alternating heat and ice is preferable. Adding Arnicare Gel also helps.
Where is sciatic pain felt?
Sciatic pain is usually felt from deep in the pelvis down the back of one or both legs. This is due to vertebral compression (squeezing in your spine) in the lower back or sacrum.
When does sciatica in pregnancy start? Does it ever go away?
Most sciatica is temporary and begins in the second or third trimester. If it lasts more than a day or two, seeing a chiropractor or taking time to rest, stretch and recover can help. Gentle movements are helpful, try not to stay in any one position too long.
Some women will experience full relief from sciatic nerve pain after giving birth, but others may develop postpartum sciatica symptoms due to weakened back and abdominal muscles. Continue to build your strength through gentle physical activity while giving your body time to rest. If your pain continues or increases during or after pregnancy, see your doctor. Gentle chiropractic care helps with postpartum recovery too.
The Bottom Line
Most women feel different aches and pains, almost every week, and because taking medications during pregnancy is discouraged, you will want to do everything possible to stay healthy and manage your discomfort.
Chiropractic care addresses the whole body, including the true source of pain and discomfort, in order to prepare you for delivery. Our chiropractic methods can also help a baby to position itself properly for delivery. It is gentle, safe and effective. Call our office at 508-243-4000 to schedule an appointment, or learn more about chiropractic care during pregnancy.
For Local Pregnant Women
The Bayside Chiropractic Experience
Your pregnant body has an amazing ability to function the way it’s supposed to. We help your body to adapt for every stage of pregnancy, birth and postpartum healing. Our goal is to direct change in support of healthy development and delivery.
Regular chiropractic care — monthly in the 1st trimester, gradually escalating to weekly in the 3rd trimester — can help you stay ahead of the changes to come and support the body’s natural means of accommodating.
Our chiropractic doctors coordinate care with your obstetrician or midwife and doula to manage pain, prepare you for labor, and feel your best all through your pregnancy.
If you’re based in Rhode Island or Southeastern Massachusetts, call our office to make an appointment. Let us help you stay strong and healthy throughout your pregnancy!
Medically reviewed by:
Paul J. O’Brien Jr, DC
Bayside Chiropractic, PC
Located in Southeastern Massachusetts, near Providence, Rhode Island
Call our office to make an appointment and start improving your well-being today.
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