Pregnancy is not known for being a time in a woman’s life when she’s feeling her most comfortable. Sciatica pain during pregnancy is something that many women deal with during and after their pregnancy. Many of the usual pain relieving medications, like ibuprofen, are not allowed during pregnancy which leaves moms-to-be searching for natural and safe pain relief to help with their sciatica pain.
What Causes Sciatica Pain During Pregnancy?
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It runs from your back to your lower extremities, and is responsible for nerve responders in those areas. As your baby grows, they push on your sciatic nerve, causing pain that often runs from your back down one of your legs. It can also be caused by increased water retention, weight gain, or your shifting center of gravity (i.e., as your body grows out forward, your center of gravity shifts putting more pressure on the nerves in your back). In addition, the body excretes a hormone called relaxin which can stretch and loosen joints. Any pressure from these loose joints on your sciatic nerve can cause that shooting pain.
The pain can sometimes be on both sides of your body, but it is often only one side the is affected. It can come in the form of shooting pains down your backside to your foot, constant pain in your lower back on one side, numbness, as well as cause difficulties in walking, standing, or sitting. Sciatica pain during pregnancy usually occurs during the third trimester as the baby continues to grow, but it can happen even earlier. Subsequent pregnancies can also cause it to flare up early than the previous pregnancy.
The shooting pain you feel when your sciatic nerve is compromised only lasts a minute, but the residual pain can last hours. You may also have residual pain with intermittent shooting pain. Many pregnant women have a hard time finding relief from their sciatic nerve pain due to the constraints of pregnancy, and safe and effective treatment options.
10 Ways to Relieve Sciatica Pain During Pregnancy
Women often have a hard time finding exactly how to relieve sciatica nerve pain during pregnancy as many medications that would normally be used to help with the pain, like anti-inflammatories, are off the table. A growing belly can make it difficult to do some of the common stretches given to patients with chronic sciatic nerve pain, too. Also, every person is different so one technique that might help one mom-to-be may not help the next one. There is no long-term “fix” for sciatic nerve pain either – in cases of pregnancy induced sciatic nerve pain, the only relief might be when the baby is born. Here are 10 ways to relieve your sciatica pain during pregnancy. Try them out and see which one works for you:
- Lie on your side opposite of the pain- if the pain is running down your left leg, lie on your right side to move the baby off the nerve.
- Apply hot and cold compresses- Alternate between hot and cold compresses to relieve some of the pain.
- Try acupuncture- Acupuncture is safe during pregnancy and has been found to help many moms find long(er) term relief from sciatic nerve pain.
- See a chiropractor– A chiropractor who is knowledgable in pregnancy and the needs of a new mom-to-be may be able to make some adjustments to help with the pain. Oftentimes sciatic pain can be the result of your sacroiliac (SI) joint which a chiropractor can adjust for you.
- Exercise– Light walking and swimming may help with the pain, as well as help you to gain weight more slowly which can help prevent sciatic nerve pain.
- Put your feet up- Take the opportunity to sit and take a breather, and when you do put your feet on an elevated surface.
- Don’t lift heavy stuff– If you are a weight-lifter or cross-fitter, you may want to bump your weights down a bit if you are dealing with sciatic nerve pain.
- Pigeon pose– Take a chapter out of your yoga book and sit in pigeon pose every day for a few minutes in the mornings and in the evenings.
- Roll it out- Foam rollers can be a great way to help stretch the nerve and relieve sciatic pain as well as help with any other back pain or pelvic pain you may be having.
- Stretch– There are some pregnancy safe stretches like a hip flexor stretch, a seated figure-four stretch, and cat-cow that can help you keep your body limber and relaxed throughout pregnancy, helping to relieve some of the pain caused by your sciatic nerve.
If the pain worsens or continues for long periods of time, make an appointment with your doctor to see if there are any additional methods, such as prescription strength acetaminophen, to help.
Sciatica pain during pregnancy is well, painful. The shooting pain can quite literally bring you to your knees. However, unlike chronic sciatica pain from issues like a herniated or bulging disc, sciatica pain during pregnancy usually ceases after the baby is born or at least shortly thereafter. With some of these tips you might be able to find temporary relief until your baby’s birthday.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on 5 Hip Stretches to Help with Hip Pain in Pregnancy.