Sciatic pain during pregnancy, also know as sciatica, can be a worrying pain and may not have been what you had in mind when you found out you were pregnant. Especially when that pain in accompanied by sharp and shooting pain into the buttocks and legs. That shooting pain is what we call sciatic nerve pain. It can be mild for some, and debilitating for others. Find out what sciatic nerve pain is and why it presents itself during pregnancy.
Sciatica is a term that is thrown around a lot. Sciatica is a general term to describe the nerve pain you get from an irritated sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from the spine, through your bum, down the back of your thigh and into the leg and foot. Pain usually occurs when this nerve is compressed at some point down its pathway, however for a lot of people, that is at the spinal level. The pain experienced can be sharp and shooting pain that may radiate all the way down your leg. Some people even experience numbness and tingling.
Most people experience pain as the first symptom. But this pain can be associated with other symptoms that, as a whole, may indicate sciatic nerve irritation.
Some women experience sciatic pain during pregnancy. For many, this is temporary. The compression may occur due to a number of reasons, including;
This is a normal process in pregnancy and nothing to worry about! Sometimes, the extra fluid becomes a mechanism of compression.
To accommodate for a growing baby, our bodies increase a hormone called relaxin. This hormone helps the body to prepare for birth. Ligaments stretch and your pelvis widens. This also means that a growing belly shifts your center of gravity forward. This extra pressure on the lower back and sciatic nerve causes compression, irritating the nerve.
Sometimes it’s the baby itself and how it is positioned in your belly causing the compression. Some even suggest that this may worsen during the third trimester, when the baby’s head positions downwards preparing for birth and subsequently compresses the spine and sciatic nerve.
A herniated disc is commonly referred to as a slipped disc, although nothing has slipped or gone anywhere!! This is usually pre diagnosed from a previous injury, however, with lifestyle factors and in some cases, general wear and tear, you may not know you had an issue to begin with, and pregnancy exacerbates compression. There are cases where a history of low back pain and sciatic nerve irritation may be a reason for a flare up during your pregnancy (or after your pregnancy). It is likely that your low back joints and discs were compromised prior to pregnancy, but you just didn’t have symptoms. With the growing pressures on your body through pregnancy and the changes in mechanical posture, any compromised region may become symptomatic.
Everyone is different when it comes to sciatica in pregnancy. For some, gentle mobility like small walks and stretching can be a great relief. Some simple things to try include:
For many pregnant women, sciatic nerve pain is more complex and requires individualized care. You don’t need to push through the pain by yourself! An osteo may assist in relieving musculoskeletal pressures in the area. Often the muscles in the surrounding areas to the back, buttocks and legs need some soft tissue massage TLC, and some gentle joint mobilising may reduce other pressures on the sciatic nerve. Hands on work can do a lot for pain and discomfort, as well as reducing inflammation in the area. It’s all about allowing you to feel your most comfortable during your pregnancy.
The piriformis muscle is one of the muscles in the buttocks. The sciatic nerve runs closely with the piriformis muscle. When the piriformis muscle is tight, it may be compressing the sciatic nerve, causing you discomfort. Luckily, the stretch aimed at lengthening the piriformis muscle is pretty easy!
The glutes are a group of muscles in the buttocks. They are a big supporters and stabilizers for us when standing and walking.
Spikey ball the buttocks:
If you have a spikey ball, or a lacrosse ball, you can use it to release tension in the buttocks or legs. This also works if you have a tennis ball.
For most women, once the pressure on their pelvis and low back is relieved after giving birth, their sciatic nerve pain reduces significantly, or even goes away completely! However, for some, the pain hangs around. Once again, you may need individualized care postnatally.
Giving birth itself may also be a trigger for low back trauma. Then on top of that, breastfeeding posture and carrying a newborn around.
If you are experiencing pain after giving birth, it is essential that you speak with your health care practitioners. After you have been cleared by your medical team, hands on therapy with your osteopath will address and encourage recovery postpartum.
Some women experience pain so bad that their sciatic nerve pain gets in the way of walking. Bed rest is usually a last resort however, you should always discuss your symptoms with your health care team and your obstetrician if you are concerned!
Are you experiencing pain and discomfort during your pregnancy? At Boroondara Osteopathy, we have six female osteopaths who will assess, diagnose and individualise your treatment going forward. To make an appointment, call 03 9859 5059 or click the BOOK ONLINE button!