Ever heard of Sciatica during pregnancy? Let’s dive into this and know about:
- Sciatica meaning
- What Sciatica symptoms
- Sciatica treatment
Pain in various places of the body is normal in pregnant women, especially while the baby is growing and they are about to give birth.
Sometimes pregnant women simply accept the discomfort and grow accustomed to the leg, hip, and back pain. In fact, back pain affects around two out of every three pregnant women.
But how can you tell if the discomfort you’re experiencing is a normal part of pregnancy or something more serious?
Why does a pregnant woman’s hip hurt?
To better understand the physical pains experienced by pregnant women, we consulted with Dr. Rebecca Singson, an OB-Gynecologist from Makati Medical Center. We asked her why a pregnant woman’s hip and back often hurt. Here is her answer:
“When you get pregnant, you start to release a hormone called relaxin. The purpose of that relaxin is to loosen up your joints, especially in your pelvic area. It needs to be relaxed a little to make way for the birth of the baby.
What happens is that you walk slowly, sometimes duck waddle, so it causes that pain. Also as your stomach grows, you being to strain your back because your axis of gravity changes.
Your spine will also be lordotic to support that growing abdomen. Overall, it really takes a toll on your back.”
What is Sciatica
Sciatica in pregnancy | Image from Unsplash
One of the unusual reasons for back discomfort in a pregnant woman is Sciatica. It commonly occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy, when the baby is huge in the womb.
Sciatica is also called the Lumbosacral radicular syndrome. It is caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back to your thigh.
It is characterized by discomfort that radiates from the buttocks and hips to the thighs. Sciatica can be caused by a variety of factors.
One prominent pain that pregnant women caused by Sciatica are pain in the thighs.
What is Sciatica: Causes
Sciatica is a sign of another issue rather than a disease or illness.
The sciatic nerve is a major nerve that runs from the buttocks to the thighs and starts in the lower back’s spinal cord. This nerve aids in the perception of pressure and pain in your legs, thighs, and foot.
Sciatica can develop during pregnancy as our uterus expands and the weight of the sciatic nerve increases, causing it to become irritated and painful.
This condition can occur in patients who have a slipped disc in their spine. The sciatic nerve can also be triggered when the piriformis muscle in the anus cramps or spasms.
Sciatica is frequently caused by lumbar spine abnormalities in pregnant women, such as a bulged or herniated disc. It can also be caused by bone abnormalities such osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease, spine thinning or stenosis, or a condition called spondylolisthesis in the spine.
Sciatica meaning: Experiencing pressure in the sciatic nerve
Sciatica in pregnancy | Image from Unsplash
Sciatica symptoms are caused by such conditions putting strain on the sciatic nerve. A herniated disc can induce sciatica during pregnancy.
In pregnancy, however, sciatic-like symptoms such as lower back discomfort are prevalent. Because the pregnant woman’s sciatic pain subsides, there’s a chance her thigh will hurt as well. Sciatica symptoms can also be caused by muscle stress and unstable joints.
Sciatica in pregnant women can be caused by pain in the pelvic bone, joint difficulties, and piriformis syndrome (a problem with one of the muscles in the buttocks).
This is due to additional hormones from your pregnancy, such as relaxin, which allows your tendons to expand and relax, especially in your pelvic area.
Moreover, the weight of your baby within your tummy might cause SI joint pain or piriformis syndrome because it puts extra strain on your pelvis and hip joints. The position of your baby might sometimes add to the pressure on your sciatic nerve as well.
Sciatica in pregnancy symptoms
The main symptom of Sciatica is a pain in the lower back, buttocks, and thighs. This is called the sciatic nerve path. The stabbing pain can start in the back and go down to the buttocks and thighs.
Here are some more Sciatica symptoms in pregnant women that you should watch out for:
- Pain in one portion of your buttocks or legs that is frequent or persistent.
- If the pain stings, electrify or is severe.
- Numbness or shortness of breath in the affected leg or foot, as if pierced by a needle.
- Legs that are weak.
- Walking, standing, or sitting is difficult.
- Inability to regulate urinating due to poor bladder control.
- When coughing, sneezing, or moving, the pain becomes more intense.
If you are pregnant and are experiencing the symptoms listed above, please notify your doctor at your next checkup.
Despite the fact that Sciatica is painful, it may be managed with therapy and some home remedies. The soreness usually goes away on its own after a few weeks.
How does Sciatica feel
Sciatica during pregnancy | Image from Unsplash
Even Dr. Becky experienced having Sciatica when she was pregnant.
“I also experienced it with my children who are twins. Sciatica feels like a pinched nerve behind you, in the upper part of the butt either on the left or on the right.”
What did she do to ease the pain?
“I have to go to a chiropractor for the realignment of spine. Because a lot of misalignment happens when you turn left or right and while carrying all that baby weight.
In one session with the chiropractor, he was able to remove the pain. They have a special table for pregnant women and they are used to realigning pregnant women. So I always refer.”
Sciatica in pregnancy pain treatment at home
As Dr. Rebecca noted, treatment for Sciatica in pregnant women includes massage, chiropractic care, and physical therapy.
Stretching can also be done to stretch the muscles in your legs, buttocks, and hips to reduce pressure on your sciatic nerve.
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5 stretching exercises for Sciatica treatment
Stretching can assist pregnant women to lessen the pain of Sciatica by reducing muscular tension and increasing movement in the hips, lower back, and legs.
Indoors, try these five stretching exercises:
Seated periformis stretch
The periformis muscle is on the inside of the anus. When it is tight, the sciatic nerve can be irritated. This stretching exercise will help to relieve muscle tightness and reduce pain of the sciatic nerve path.
Apart from a chair, no other equipment is needed for this exercise.
Here are the following steps for the seated periformis stretch:
- Sit in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor.
- If the left side of your body is painful, place your left ankle on your right knee. The position seems to be quadrangular, but make sure the ankle is at the knee.
- Make sure your back is straight. Slowly lean forward until you feel the stretch on the side of your buttocks.
- Stay in that position for 30 seconds. Repeat several times a day.
Table Stretch | Video from Healthline
This exercise is very fun to do especially when pregnant. It helps stretch the muscles in your back, buttocks, and thighs or hamstrings.
The only equipment needed is a sturdy or stable table or chair.
- Stand up and face the table. Make sure the space between your legs is wider than your hips.
- Lean forward while holding the table. Keep your arms straight and your back flat.
- Withdraw your intention away from the table until you feel the stretch in your lower back and hamstrings.
- You can also pull your hips back to the right and to the left to feel the stretch more.
- Maintain this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do this 2 times a day.
This popular yoga pose helps to relieve Sciatica during pregnancy, with a bit of modification.
What you need for this exercise are a yoga mat and a rolled towel.
- Sit on the floor or on your yoga mat from kneeling. Your hands are also pressed to the floor.
- Slide your right knee forward between your hands.
- Slide your left leg back, keeping it flat on the floor.
- Place the rolled towel under the right side of the hip. Exercise will be easier and there will be room for your stomach.
- Lean forward on your right leg. A pillow can also be placed in front of you and under your head for extra support.
- Hold this position for a minute and repeat it several times a day.
The hip flexors are the muscles in the front of the hip that help to move the leg forward while walking. This muscle often becomes tight during pregnancy. It also affects pelvic alignment and posture so the hip hurts.
Here are the steps for this stretching exercise.
- Kneel on the floor in the “all fours” position. Apply your hands to the floor.
- Step one foot forward so that your hips and knees have a 90-degree angle.
- Move your weight in front of your body to feel the stretch in your hips and thighs.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Glute and hamstring foam rolling
The foam roller is an inexpensive stretching device that helps massage your muscles to relax them. It can be purchased at sporting goods stores or online. Follow these steps to reduce the pain caused by Sciatica.
- Place the foam roller on the floor.
- Sit on the foam roller, and place your hand on the floor to support your upper body.
- Place your one foot on your knee, as if number 4 or four-quarter.
- Gently move your body and move back and forth until you feel the foam roller hit the painful parts of the buttocks and hips. Do this for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Repeat the steps on the other side of the body.
Sciatica treatment: what else can you do?
Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise. If you experience symptoms such as headache, dizziness, or bleeding, stop exercising immediately and seek help.
Swimming and other non-weight-bearing sports are also beneficial to others. This is because water aids in the support of the baby, reducing the weight on your tummy.
Sciatic pain can get worse if you are always sitting or standing for a long time, so be sure to change position throughout the day, whether at home or in the office.
Feel your body as well, and stop activities that make the pain worse.
Wearing a belly band can also help as additional support to your back and hips as your abdomen grows.
How to cure Sciatica permanently
When all else fails, surgery is the last resort for approximately 5% to 10% of people with sciatica. If you have milder sciatica and are still in pain after three months of rest, stretching, and medication, you and your doctor should talk about surgery.
In rare cases, sciatica can lead to cauda equine syndrome, which causes you to lose control of your bowels and bladder. That’s an emergency surgery situation.
The two most common surgical therapies for sciatica are diskectomy and laminectomy.
During this procedure, your surgeon will remove anything pushing on your sciatic nerve, whether it’s a herniated disk, a bone spur, or something else.
Although the goal is to remove only the area of the disk that is causing the sciatica, surgeons may need to remove the entire disk to fix the condition. You may be able to go home the same day after a diskectomy if you are under general anesthesia.
A bone ring that surrounds the spinal cord is known as the lamina. During a laminectomy, your surgeon will remove the lamina as well as any tissue pressing on the nerve that is causing you pain.
You will be given general anesthetic, which will put you to sleep for the length of the procedure, which could last up to two hours. You’ll be released from the hospital the same day or the next, with orders to start walking the next day.
When to consult your doctor
Sciatica often goes away on its own. But call your OB-GYN when the pain does not go away with the help of stretching exercises and other home remedies or when the pain worsens and it lasts for more than a week.
Immediate medical attention is needed when:
- There is sudden and severe pain in your lower back or legs, and your legs become weak or numb
- The pain occurs after an injury or prolonged sitting due to heavy traffic, or an accident
- You have difficulty controlling your urination and bowel movements
Remember, it is also important to consult your doctor when you feel any pain in your back so that he can advise you on what you should do and he can refer you to a chiropractor or physical therapist.
Additional information from Camille Eusebio
Translated by Margaux Dolores
If you want to read the Filipino version of this article, click here.
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