Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy
There's No Pain Like It
Most of us have experienced the intense pain and discomfort of a pinched nerve. There's nothing quite like that kind of pain. The sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body, runs from the low back, under the uterus, and down into the upper legs and then branches off into the feet. This is the nerve that is responsible for the ability to feel different sensations and the movement of our legs. An inflammation, or pressure coming from the region of the back, can make this nerve painful. The result is a condition called sciatica. Pregnancy sciatica pain can be felt down the legs without a backache as a precursor and often presents as a burning pain or pins and needles running down the back of the leg and into the foot.
Pregnancy Does Not Cause Sciatica
It is a misconception that when you are pregnant you are more prone to sciatica. Most of the lower body pain you feel during pregnancy is caused by pregnancy back pain and a condition called pelvic girdle pain (PGP). PGP is often misdiagnosed as sciatica. Only about 1% of women actually suffer with sciatica during pregnancy. But, PGP often has a lot of the same symptoms as sciatica with low back pain, and pain in the legs. Sciatica is not caused by the pressure your baby puts on the nerve. In young people, the general cause of sciatica is a damaged or herniated disc and in older people it is likely caused by bone or ligament compression, or a herniated disc. The fact is that if you suffer with sciatica, you probably would suffer pregnant or not. Pregnancy does not cause sciatica. But, you can certainly experience pregnancy sciatica pain during those nine months.
Dealing With Pregnancy Sciatica Pain
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the most simple way to deal with the pain of sciatica is to lie on the side that is opposite the pain. This can relieve the pressure on the nerve. Avoid heavy lifting and standing for long periods of time. Lifting one foot and resting it on something may alleviate the pain if you have to stand. Swimming is a good exercise to ease the discomfort. The application of hot or cold compresses can be helpful, and taking a mild pain reliever that is recommended by your doctor can assist in dealing with the pain.
A Literal Pain In The Butt
There is a syndrome, piriformis syndrome, where the sciatic nerve is pinched in the area of the buttocks. Numbness, tingling, burning, and aching happens along the path the sciatic nerve takes from the back to the feet. The piriformis is a muscle in the buttocks that when traumatized can compress the sciatic nerve causing pain in the leg and buttocks. Pregnancy can increase the spasms in this muscle causing pain that radiates down the leg. Muscle stretching, massage, and chiropractic adjustments help to ease the discomfort and pain in the region and down the legs.
Those Pesky Hormones, Again
Pregnancy hip pain seems to go hand in hand with pregnancy back pain. They seem to be part and parcel of the pregnancy experience and tend to become worse during the last trimester. The release of the hormone relaxin is generally to blame for the increase in hip pain. The joints and ligaments are loosened by this hormone as the body's need to expand and prepare for delivery grows. The enlarged uterus shifts the center of gravity of your body and now your back is swayed and there is a lot of pressure on your hips-which are now unstable because of the relaxin. Thankfully there are some very simple things you can do to ease the pain. Using a full body support pillow between the legs and under the abdomen while sleep is most effective. When sitting, prop a pillow behind your back to relieve the pressure. Chiropractic is another good way to help with the discomfort. While most doctors advocate movement during pregnancy, women with hip issues may find too much movement aggravating to the hip. It's a good idea to check in the a physical therapist to learn about ways you can maintain mobility and minimize pain.