The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and is responsible for providing sensory and motor function to the lower parts of the body. When the nerve is compressed, or pressure is placed on it, you will feel a pain down the back of the thigh, lower part of the leg and the sole of the foot.
The sciatic nerve runs under your uterus to your legs. One of the causes of sciatic nerve pain in pregnancy is thought to be associated with pressure on the nerve caused by the developing baby.
As your Pregnancy progresses, the increasing weight of the baby alters your posture and places pressure on your spine. Pregnancy hormones, progesterone and relaxin, soften the ligaments that support your back and joints within the pelvis. Breast and bottle feeding a newborn also puts strain on the upper back. If your spine is out of alignment, this can inhibit the flow of blood and nerve supply to your organs and tissues.
Starting around the second trimester, women frequently get a sharp stabbing pain in their groin or to one side. It may come on at sudden intervals, might be worse if you suddenly get up, stretch or move and it might disappear then reappear a few days later. It can be worrying to suddenly get pains like this, but usually it’s due to the ligaments or muscles around your uterus in your pelvis adjusting as they change to support your growing baby.
For pregnant women in their second and third trimester, regular prenatal massage from 30 minutes to one hour once or twice a week can help relieve stress on weight-bearing joints and assist in maintaining proper posture, which may improve symptoms of sciatica. Typically the symptoms of sciatica in pregnancy include the following:
At Home. The simplest remedy is to lie on your side, opposite to the pain. This usually works because it releases the pressure which is being placed on the nerve. Many doctors suggest sleeping on one side on a nice firm mattress or even on the floor with pillows rolled up under the knees. Other ways to relieve the pain include using a warm compress on your lower back or taking a warm bath. You could also try a Belly Sling or other support system to help alleviate some of the pressure.
Gentle exercise. Swimming is an outstanding exercise for pregnant women and has been known to help relieve sciatic nerve pain. Both swimming and walking are excellent ways to ease pressure on your lower back, bottom, and upper thighs. Just be sure to walk on level ground and avoid steep inclines.
Stretches. Stretches also help. Basic stretches include a hamstring stretch or a hip stretch, where you cross one knee over your body while rotating your back. You can do a hip stretch sitting or lying down, depending on which is more comfortable for you. This may be difficult with your belly in front, but it can help reduce sciatic pain. Get some recommendations from your Remedial Pregnancy Massage Therapist, as they will be able to specify which stretches will be helpful to your individual lifestyle and body type.
Prenatal yoga offers extensive stretches for your back, hips and legs. It also helps prepare your body for childbirth by teaching you helpful breathing techniques that can help alleviate the pain of childbirth. Yoga can increase the flexibility of your legs, which reduces compression on the nerve and can alleviate pain.
Focus on your Posture. If you do suffer from sciatic nerve pain then you should avoid bending or twisting to lift any heavy weights, and try to avoid standing for any long amount of time. This may be difficult if you work in job with standing requirements so try to give yourself some breaks or if you experience pressure while standing, try elevating one foot and resting it on something. – if you cannot avoid it try a Maternity Back Support as this will ease the pressure of your standing posture on the lower back region. If you do have to lift anything, always bend from your knees and keep your back straight.
Footwear is important. Even though it may be tempting to put on your favourite set of heels, you should always wear comfortable shoes, particularly if you are having lower back or leg pain. Wearing flat, soft shoes may help prevent jarring of the spine when you walk, although some women find that wearing shoes with a little heel helps their back pain.
Remedial Pregnancy Massage. Find a Clinic that specialises in Pregnancy Massage, targeting common postural ailments in pregnancy. Pregnancy massage, specifically targeted towards the lower back and sciatic region will release the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Massage therapy has gained a lot of positive feedback in its efficiency in alleviating the sciatic nerve pain as it mechanically warms the muscle which will release the pressure on the sciatic nerve by releasing the muscles around it. Your pregnancy massage specialist will also be able to recommend stretches relevant to your particular situation and postural requirements.
Health Care Professional. Your doctor may also prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to help treat the pain, but receiving a pregnancy massage may assist in you avoiding going down the path of taking any medications.
If the pain is ongoing or increases in severity or frequency you should contact your health care provider.
In recognition of us all being individuals and each having different bodies and therefore differing health requirements, all information provided is a general recommendation only and not a prescription. All health related information and subsequent questions must be followed up with your own physician.