Sciatica in pregnancy
Pregnancy is an amazing experience – both experiencing it or watching someone go through it. The body undergoes such transformational changes which include hormonal changes and of course lots of postural changes to accommodate for the growing size of the baby in the abdomen and pelvis. This in turn may cause strain on the lower back, hips and pelvic muscles and joints. But sometimes with all those changes comes some pain…
Commonly in pregnancy, due to these changes, women will experience sciatica.
Sciatica refers to irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a very large nerve that is made up of a bundle of nerve fibres that come from the lower back. These spinal nerves join up together in the gluteal (buttock) region, and then continues down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg as the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve supplies both motor (movement) and sensory (feeling and sensation) to the thigh, leg and foot.
When the sciatic nerve is irritated during pregnancy it can give rise to many symptoms that may include a few or all of the following:
- Aching or sharp pain in the back, buttock, thigh, and/or leg and/or foot,
- Pins and needles in the thigh, and/or leg and/or foot,
- Hot, shooting pain in the buttock, thigh, lower leg, foot,
- Pain while sitting, driving, and/or walking,
- Muscle weakness in the leg and/or foot
- Increase in pain when sneezing, coughing, lifting and twisting the body
- IF you experience weakness or you are not able to control bladder or bowel function – go straight to your closest emergency department as IMMEDIATE medical attention is required
If sciatica is a new experience for you in pregnancy, it is most likely going to resolve within 2-12 weeks after you have given birth. If the sciatica has been caused by postural related changes as well as un underlying condition such as disc bulges, joint or disc degeneration or spinal nerve irritation then it may take a little longer to resolve and further investigation, treatment and rehabilitation may be required. Discussion with your Osteopath, obstetrician and health care practitioners will advise on YOUR case and best management plans!
Natural solutions for managing sciatica during and after pregnancy may include:
- Osteopathic treatment
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint articulation
- Muscle energy techniques
- Dry needling
- Myofascial release
- Muscle strength program for lower and upper back, hips, pelvic muscles, legs and feet
- Use of Heat and/or Ice
- Bracing of Sacroiliac Joints, Pubic Symphysis, Lumbar Spine (Lower back) and Thoracic spine (Mid-Upper back)
- Postural tape of sacroiliac joints, hips, lower and mid/upper back
- Use of a lumbar support cushion when sitting and driving to support your lower back
- Wearing shoes that have a lot of support, and minimal or NO heels!
- Sleep side-lying with pillow between the knees and a small pillow or rolled up towel under the baby bump for support in bed
- Don’t lift anything heavy
- When bending, watch your posture, and make sure your “core” muscles and pelvic floor muscles are activated
- Gentle exercise including strengthening exercises for the upper, mid and lower back, pelvis, legs and feet and stretching exercises
- Water therapy such as swimming, kicking, walking, hydrotherapy classes for pregnancy or just even floating in the water may help ease pressure on the sciatic nerve.
So make sure, no matter what stage of pregnancy you are in, or even after you have given birth, that if you are experiencing sciatica or sciatica type symptoms you seek osteopathic, medical or professional advice from your health care provider. This will allow for quicker healing and better management for your overall care.