During pregnancy it's expected that you will probably experience the normal aches and discomforts, as well as the regular trips to the bathroom – courtesy of a bladder the size of a small child's!
However if your aches and discomfort transform into something considerably more painful, it's crucial that you keep an eye out for potential sciatic nerve inflammation.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, severe pain located in your legs could be due to a condition called sciatica. This condition is quite common during pregnancy and although is considered to be quite painful, can also be effectively treated.
What Is Sciatica?
The sciatica treatment site describes the sciatic nerve as “the nerve responsible for transmitting signals from the feet and legs to the brain.” Essentially, it takes care of your lower motor functions.
This nerve is located from the lower back and travels down the back of the legs to the feet. It is the largest nerve in the body and during its journey down to your feet, runs under the uterus. When this nerve is inflamed it causes pain in the legs. This pain can vary from mild to intense depending on the severity of the inflammation.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatic pain in pregnancy has been described as tingling, numbness or stabbing pain that commences in the lower back or buttocks and then travels down to the very back of your legs.
During the third trimester, and as the baby starts to move into birth position, the pressure can inflame the sciatic nerve. It is believed that this is the most common period for sciatica during pregnancy (although it can occur at any time) especially if you have a previous history of spinal disorders.
- The pain associated with sciatica is mainly intermittent and appears sporadically
- Sciatica is not considered to be dangerous during pregnancy, but is still classified as an uncomfortable and painful condition
While the condition disappears by itself, there are some ways you can reduce the pain in the short-term.
Dr Clare Gordon, Osteopath and President of the Osteopathic Association in Victoria says: “Sciatic pain is one of the most common symptoms women may experience during pregnancy. The pelvis and lower back are particularly vulnerable to this type of pain due to the ever increasing changes in weight bearing, pelvic alignment and ligament laxity. True sciatic pain is where the sciatic nerve is compressed at some point from its exit at the vertebral levels and may cause radiation into the buttocks and down the leg. However, there are many things that cause similar pain but are not actually true sciatica. This could be from ligaments, joint restrictions or even muscle trigger points. An Osteopath with experience in treating pregnant women can help to give a diagnosis of the true cause, which then allows them to treat that cause specifically. This will lead to a decrease in pain and result in a more enjoyable pregnancy.”
How To Treat Sciatica in Pregnancy
Experts advise that sciatica sufferers should maintain their standard activity levels and attempt targeted exercises to increase circulation. It is also helpful to develop the muscles of the lower back by trying out core exercises.
To reduce the immediate pain of sciatica, it is suggested that a heat or ice pack pressed against the lower back can ease the symptoms. If you choose heat, make sure you don’t make the heat pack too hot and burn yourself, making things worse.
If you experience sciatica during pregnancy, try to rest and avoid heavy lifting. You can also lie down on your uninjured side (the side not experiencing pain) in order to ease the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Sciatic pain during pregnancy is a painful condition that is unfortunately more common than we'd like. But by trying some of the above methods, you should be able to reduce the pain and symptoms of sciatica.
Therapists That Treat Sciatica
There are several modes of therapists that help with sciatic pain. These include:
Make sure you visit a trained and licensed practitioner, ideally with experience treating women in pregnancy. You may also like to see your GP if you would prefer more medical options.