What is Sciatica?
The lower back region is the place of origin of the sciatic nerves. The nerves spread out to the feet after they pass through the back of the legs. The movements of the muscles in the legs as well as the sensation of pain or touch are a result of the functioning of the sciatic nerves. Sometimes, the five lumbar nerve roots experience too much pressure this results in a strain on the sciatic nerves. Such a condition involves the irritation and compression of the sciatic nerve and the symptoms that individuals experience is known as Sciatica.
Causes of Sciatica during Pregnancy:
During pregnancy, the uterus grows larger and exerts pressure on the spine and sciatic nerves that can result in Sciatica. Other causes of the presentation of these symptoms during pregnancy include gel inside the spinal disk to leak out because of a rupture known as herniated or slipped disk. Moreover, it is common for the baby to place itself directly on the sciatic nerves by starting to shift to the birth position in the third trimester, which may also result in sciatica.
- Sporadically occurring pain
- Pain in the groin that occurs rarely
- Cramping in the muscles that are of an acute manner
- Mild pain starts in the lower back and buttocks and later reaches the foot after travelling down the legs
- Burning sensation or stabbing pain that initially starts as a tingling numbness
The symptoms of sciatica are very similar to those that an individual experiences due to pelvic girdled pain during pregnancy. This may often result in people misunderstanding pelvic girdle pain to be sciatica. However, the symptoms of sciatica during pregnancy are much more severe in comparison of pelvic girdle pain.
Prevention of Sciatica during Pregnancy:
Generally, there are no effective ways of preventing Sciatica from occurring during pregnancy. However, the following habits may be helpful in reducing the risk of experiencing this symptom:-
- Women who exercise regularly have lower chances of being subject to sciatica while they are pregnant
- Strong muscles, that develop due to regular exercise; help to support the weight of the uterus during pregnancy, thus reducing the pressure on the sciatic nerves
- The risk is also lower if women avoid overeating before conception or during the first trimester of pregnancy
Diagnosis of Sciatica during Pregnancy:
In case the functions of the sciatic nerves are affected, MRI and other such imaging tests may be required. However, most often the doctors do not need to conduct tests to diagnose this condition as the symptom presents itself clearly in the individual.
Treatment of Sciatica pain during Pregnancy:
The symptoms of the pain related to Sciatica can be subdued by using the following methods of treatment that relieves pressure from the sciatic nerves –
- Massage therapy
- Professional therapist practicing manual physical therapy
- Osteopathic treatment
- Chiropractic treatment
- Stretches and exercises
- After delivery, ibuprofen and other anti inflammatory medicines, can be taken to provide relief from the pain (these medicines are not taken during pregnancy)
Sciatica pain management during Pregnancy:
- Women must try to lie on the side that is opposite to the region where the pain occurs
- To avoid hurting the spine try to keep the back slightly arched
- Practice holding the correct posture
- Try sleeping on a firm mattress, as most doctors recommend during pregnancy
- Keep legs together while sitting on the edge of the bed at the time of getting into bed to avoid stretching the legs apart
- In case of extreme pain, the woman can use crutches to walk
- Women should take complete bed rest
- To support the baby bump, women can wear a belt around the stomach
- Do not stand or sit for a long period of time
- Prevent jolting of the spine while walking by wearing flat shoes during pregnancy
- Do not participate in activities that have a risk of hurting the body
- Women should try swimming as it makes a person feel weightless and light
- Provide support to the back while sitting by using a small cushion or pillow
- Use an ice pack or heating pad to ease the pain, depending on whichever is more effective
- While sleeping, use a fluffy pillow to support the bump
- Do not lift any heavy objects
Exercises for relief from Sciatica pain:
- Reverse curl
- Chair stretch
- Squat and stretch
- Pelvic tilt
Strengthening the pelvic floor, back, hip, spine, stomach muscles, etc. can help to reduce pain due to sciatica. The exercises are most effective if women practice them throughout their pregnancy and continue with the same routine even after delivering their babies.
However, it is imperative that women must consult their doctors before they practice any kind of exercise to avoid any damage to the growing fetus or any complication durinf their pregnancy.
The duration of the symptoms related to sciatica differ for different people. Most often the pain ceases within six weeks, while for others it may last up to 12 weeks. Although, it is also possible for some women to experience temporary disability if a mild pain persists for six months or more after delivery of the baby.