The body experiences physical changes during pregnancy. As the baby grows, the body has to adjust, which can cause unfamiliar aches and pains. A common issue for pregnant women is sciatica symptoms or lumbar radiculopathy, which radiates discomfort sensations that travel down the lower spine, down the back of the thigh, and into the foot. Chiropractic care and massage therapy can realign the spine and hips, therapeutically massage circulation through the body, relieve symptoms, and restore function.
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The sciatic nerve is the largest in the body and the main nerve in the legs. In most cases, sciatica happens when this nerve gets compressed by bulging, slipped, or ruptured spinal discs, arthritis, or spinal stenosis.
Aches and pains that result from sciatica range from mild to severe sensations. Symptoms include:
- Pain that travels from the pelvis down the back of the leg.
- A burning sensation in the low back and buttocks.
- Jolting pain that feels like an electric shock.
- Numbness, muscle weakness, or tingling in one leg or foot.
- Tingling sensation in one part of the body and pain in another.
- Pain that worsens when coughing, sneezing or sitting for long periods.
Sciatica during pregnancy can be caused by:
- Weight gain is going to pull the spine and muscles down.
- Increased fluid retention can place added pressure on the nerve as it passes through the pelvis.
- The expanding uterus can press down on the nerve in the lower part of the spine.
- The growing belly and breasts shift the center of gravity forward and stretch the lordotic curve causing the muscles in the:
- Buttocks and pelvis to tighten up and compress the sciatic nerve.
- The baby’s head can rest directly on the nerve when settling into the proper birth position in the third trimester.
- A herniated or slipped disc caused by the extra pressure of the growing uterus can be the cause, although this is less common.
- Pregnancy also causes the body to release a hormone called relaxin, designed to relax the ligaments and prepare the pelvis for childbirth.
- Loose ligaments can cause spinal compression and affect the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica will most likely occur during the third trimester when mother and baby are bulking up, but it can develop earlier, although this is less common. Most women experience symptoms on one side, though it can affect both legs. The condition can be constant or intermittent, depending on the amount of pressure placed on the nerve, and can remain for a few months after giving birth when the excess weight and fluid are gone.
Simple home remedies and treatment to help ease the symptoms. These include:
Sleep on Your Side
- Rest on the side of the body that does not present symptoms when lying down.
- This takes the pressure off the compressed nerve.
- Use a full-body pillow to support the hips and legs.
A Hot Shower, Heat, and Ice
- Heat relaxes tight muscles and increases circulation.
- Putting a cold pack on your lower back and rear pelvis can also help.
- Consistent gentle movement that does not include too much bending or twisting is helpful to keep the musculoskeletal system active and limber.
- Going for a light walk is recommended.
- A prenatal yoga class can soothe muscles and the mind.
- Low-impact activities like swimming can also be beneficial.
Chiropractic and Physical Therapy
- Chiropractic is non-invasive and drug-free, making it a safe and gentle option for mom and baby.
- A professional chiropractor can evaluate the condition.
- Identify and remove interferences in the nervous system from the source.
- Realign the bones.
- Provide a personalized treatment plan to alleviate symptoms and stretches and strength-building exercises.
Sciatica In Pregnancy
American Pregnancy Association: “Prenatal Massage Therapy.
American Pregnancy Association: “Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatment.”
FRIEDMANN, E. “Narrowing of the spinal canal due to thickened lamina a cause of low-back pain and sciatica.” Clinical orthopedics vol. 21 (1961): 190-7.
Goldsmith, Laura T, and Gerson Weiss. “Relaxin in human pregnancy.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences vol. 1160 (2009): 130-5. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2008.03800.x
KULOWSKI, J. “Unusual causes of low back pain and sciatica during pregnancy.” American journal of obstetrics and gynecology vol. 84 (1962): 627-30. doi:10.1016/0002-9378(62)90156-4
Trager, Robert J et al. “Ischial osteochondroma as an unusual source of pregnancy-related sciatic pain: a case report.” Chiropractic & manual therapies vol. 30,1 45. 17 Oct. 2022, doi:10.1186/s12998-022-00451-3
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