Your body experiences tremendous changes during the nine months of pregnancy. As you and your family dream of bringing home a newly minted person, wonder what their little personality will be like, create a nursery, and choose a name, parts of your body are shifting and straining to accommodate and nurture the little one.
Unfortunately, the joy, excitement, and anticipation can be masked by significant physical pain in pregnancy as the body tries to cope with its massive and constant changes. Some of those changes may bring on a case of sciatica, a painful condition caused by an irritated sciatic nerve.
Here is a brief review of sciatica during pregnancy — what it is, what you can do, and how the Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center chiropractors can help!
What is Sciatica During Pregnancy?
Sciatica is a condition that sends a sharp pain shooting from your back or buttocks down the back of your legs, along the sciatic nerve, to your feet. This pain is often due to the nerve being compressed by damaged spinal discs or arthritis.
Sciatic pain may be continuous or occasional, depending on the level of pressure on the nerve. In any case, though, it’s not hard to imagine that having sciatica, in addition to other discomforts of third-trimester pregnancy, must be quite painful!
What Causes Sciatica During Pregnancy?
Lower back pain is common during pregnancy. It is estimated that 50 to 80% of women experience this pain at some point in their pregnancies. In addition, in pregnant women, sciatica occurs in late pregnancy with the significant changes that come with a growing baby.
For example, here are a few things that can pressure the sciatic nerve during pregnancy:
- Weight gain
- Fluid retention
- An enlarged uterus
- Shifting center of gravity
- The growing baby (the head may sit directly on the nerve)
This pain can last for the remainder of the pregnancy and several weeks after birth until the excess weight and fluid are shed.
The condition may also be caused by a herniated disc, which, according to research, may be more common in pregnant women over 30.
The Hormone Relaxin
During pregnancy, your body is flooded with a variety of hormones. One of them, relaxin, supports implantation and growth of the placenta. During the third trimester, it also softens the pelvic bones in anticipation of allowing the baby to be delivered. Unfortunately, this process can make the still-pregnant woman feel unbalanced and pinch and irritate the sciatic nerve.
What Sciatica Symptoms Do Pregnant Women Experience?
Unfortunately, the list of symptoms for sciatica during pregnancy consists mostly of different types of pain with a few other categories of discomfort to give it a little variety. Fortunately, there are things you can do to alleviate the pain, and there are many ways a chiropractor can bring you relief.
The main symptom is shooting pain from the back to the feet. You may also experience:
- Pain in the legs
- A “pins and needles” or burning feeling, tingling, or numbness in the legs
- Pain that worsens with coughing, moving, or sneezing
- Urinary incontinence (i.e., loss of bladder control)
Symptoms may also include pain on one side of the buttocks or legs and discomfort when walking, standing, or sitting for a long time. In sum, sciatica is highly unpleasant, especially during pregnancy!
Relieving Sciatic Nerve Pain: What You Can Do
Fortunately, there are safe DIY methods to relieve the pain and discomfort of sciatica during your pregnancy unless there are other health conditions present:
Ice or Heat
Applying ice will numb the area and reduce pain signals, while the resulting reduced blood flow will ease inflammation. Heat may help address chronic sciatic pain by dilating blood vessels, increasing blood flow, and soothing sore muscles.
Sciatica Pregnancy Stretches and Exercises
A healthcare practitioner can help you pick a set of exercises that will help make your pregnancy more comfortable by strengthening muscles and improving posture:
- Bound Angle Pose: With your legs straight out, raise your pelvis, bend your knees, move your heels toward you, drop your knees to the sides, and press your feet together.
- Child’s Pose: Face down with toes on the ground, lift up, and stretch your arms as far as they will go. Lower yourself to the ground with arms outstretched.
- Table Stretch: With your legs slightly wider than your hips, put your hands on a table and lean forward. Move your hips away from the table to stretch your lower back and the back of your legs.
- Hip Flexor Stretch: Lower yourself to the floor on your hands and knees. Move one foot forward and stretch your back, hip, and leg.
Walking and More
Occasional short walks can benefit your lower back and make you feel more stable as you move around. Start with a 5-minute walk and gradually increase that time by a few minutes every several days. Depending on your health, you may want to add other mild exercises, such as bicycling, swimming, dancing, or yoga. Check with your doctor to make sure that whatever you choose to do, it will be safe.
Sometimes you have to sit down, put your feet up, and take a break, as the simple act of resting can take the pressure off your back and ease the pain! Try sleeping on your pain-free side using a firm mattress and avoid staying in one position for a long time.
How Chiropractic Care Can Help
Complementary to primary medical care, chiropractic treatment can alleviate months of musculoskeletal pain, all too common for pregnant women. Some chiropractors even specialize in pregnancy care! The adjustments, exercises, and stretches used at Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center for pregnant patients are safe and gentle. We relieve your pain by realigning the spine and balancing the pelvis.
Our practices are non-invasive and drug-free. Treatments can result in pain relief, increased mobility, improved sleep, and decreased labor and delivery times. We help your body more effectively adapt to the constant changes and stress that come with pregnancy, and reduce conditions such as sciatic pain!
Dr. Doerr is the Best Chiropractor in New Jersey for Treating Sciatic Nerve Pain!
At Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, our chiropractic team, under the leadership of Dr. Gregory Doerr, adheres to the highest and most professional medical standards to provide superior chiropractic help. Our mission is to provide unparalleled patient care in a comfortable, healing atmosphere.
Access our contact form or call us at (201) 945-4075 to learn more about our chiropractic care services! Our offices at 532 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park, NJ 07010, and 62 Summit Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601, are ready to welcome you as we proudly serve the areas of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD. Also, feel free to access our blog, Facebook, and Instagram pages for more information on chiropractic adjustments!
- Freutel, Natasha. “Sciatica Pregnancy: Stretches for Pain.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 14 Nov. 2016, www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/sciatica-pain-stretches#next-steps. Accessed 5 Sept. 2022.
- “Sciatica during Pregnancy.” What to Expect, WhattoExpect, www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/sciatica/. Accessed 5 Sept. 2022.