Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.
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Sciatica Nerve Pain During Pregnancy

There are many interesting side effects of pregnancy, one of which is sciatica during pregnancy. While not solely a pregnancy related condition, sciatica does affect many women during pregnancy.

The sciatic nerve is a long nerve that runs from the lower back down the out side of the thigh and down to the top of the foot. Typically this nerve allows feeling in the muscles of the legs and feet. There are times however when the sciatic nerve can become inflamed, whether from pressure in the back or injury. When this happens people experience sciatic pain.

Sometimes persistent or chronic pressure to the sciatic nerve can result in weakness in the leg or surrounding areas, numbness or even tingling. Some women describe the sensation as similar to the feeling of pins and needles you get when your leg falls asleep.

Typically the symptoms of sciatica in pregnancy include the following:

  • Pins and needles in the lower back or leg, possibly the affected foot.

  • Shooting or burning in the leg, buttock or lower back.

  • Pain in the lower back or back of the pelvis that may extend into the foot.

  • Numbness in the leg (mostly the outer thigh) or top of the foot.

Pelvic Girdle Pain

In many cases, you may think you are suffering from sciatica, but the pain is actually pelvic girdle pain, which is more common in pregnancy. Pelvic girdle pain causes discomfort and pain similar to sciatica pain. Sometimes, the pain is concentrated in your buttocks and radiates down one leg. This is why pelvic girdle pain is often confused with sciatica.

General Hip Pain

Some women are fortunate enough to have never experienced sciatica or pelvic girdle pain. Instead, they experience general hip pain and discomfort. Your generalized hip pain is probably caused by the pressure of the pregnant uterus, combined with the hormone relaxin causing the bones in your pelvis to soften and shift.

Treatment Options

Learn about things you can do to relieve the pain from Sciatica in pregnancy.

No matter if you're suffering from sciatica, pelvic girdle pain, or general hip pain, you can get relief from your symptoms with the following techniques:

  • Consider heat therapy. You may want to use a heating pad and place it to the affected painful muscles. If you don't have a heating pad, sit in a warm bath.

  • Avoid lifting or pushing anything that's heavy. Even pushing a grocery cart can cause you to feel pain. Go shopping with your partner or significant other and have him push the cart around.

  • Don't make any sudden movements. Take everything slow. Move slower than before.

  • Switch out your soft mattress for a firm one. If this isn't an option, buy a firm mattress topper, or ask your partner to place a board between the box spring and mattress.

  • A therapist can also provide you with a list of beneficial exercises to not only improve your comfort but also strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles and back muscles. These will prove beneficial for labor and delivery, and the time after.

  • Still others find chiropractic care helpful for relieving sciatica pain. If you do choose to see a chiropractor or other manual therapist, be certain they have experience working with prenatal patients.

  • Some women find massage therapy helpful for relieving inflammation and symptoms associated with sciatica. A massage can certainly help reduce muscle tension. Some theories suggest that gluteus or psoas muscles that are too tight can help contribute to sciatic pain. Massage therapy may help relieve some of this tightness and reduce the symptoms associated with sciatica.

  • When your pain is unbearable, consider taking acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is considered safe during pregnancy. If this does not help you can ask your physician for something stronger.

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