Back pain is very common during pregnancy, affecting over half of pregnant women. Sciatic nerve pain is one of the most severe pains that you can get in your back. Sciatic nerve pain is also called sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy. For some women, sciatica will cause mild pain, numbness or tingling, while for others, it can cause severe shooting pains that radiate from their lower back down their legs. Whatever the case, there are things you can do to relieve the symptoms.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by the sciatic nerve becoming irritated, usually as a result of increased pressure on the nerve. The sciatic nerve is the main nerve in the legs and the largest nerve in the body. The nerve branches off from the spinal cord in the lower back and runs through the buttocks and down the legs to the feet. The sciatic nerve helps you to feel sensations in your lower back, legs and feet such as pain, pressure and temperature.
During pregnancy, increasing weight and an expanding uterus put pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can cause inflammation and pain. Sciatica is more likely to occur later in the pregnancy as the baby grows. Sciatica can also be caused by a bulging, ruptured or slipped disk. Other causes include spinal compression, a bone spur on the vertebrae, arthritis, spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal cord) or a spasm of the piriformis muscle in the buttocks.
Symptoms of Sciatica
For some women, sciatic pain can come and go, but for others it is constant. Sciatic pain typically travels from the lower back or pelvis, down the back of the leg, and can travel to the foot. There can also be a burning sensation in the legs, buttocks and lower back. Sudden jolts of pain that feel like an electric shock are also common. The pain may worsen while moving, coughing, sneezing or sitting for long periods of time. Sciatica can also cause numbness, tingling or weakness in one leg or foot. Other symptoms include poor bladder control, difficulty walking, sitting or standing.
How to Improve Sciatica Symptoms
Stretches and exercises can alleviate sciatic nerve pain. Gentle lower back massages can also greatly help to relieve pain and inflammation around the nerve. It’s best to seek a professional masseuse that is experienced in massages specifically for pregnant women; some spas even offer special mom-to-be massages. You can also massage yourself with a tennis ball or a roller.
It’s best to avoid sitting in the same position for long periods. Get up and walk regularly and be mindful of your posture. You can also use heat packs to help relax the muscles in your back and buttocks. When you sleep, lie on your side and use a pillow to support your hips and legs; this takes the pressure off the nerve. Some women also find a lot of relief using a pregnancy girdle that helps with your posture and evenly distributes pregnancy weight. You may also take over-the-counter pain medication. Check with a doctor first to avoid anything that may harm your baby. If the pain is severe, seek immediate medical attention.
If you have sciatic nerve pain and would like to seek professional advice and treatments, contact Hanowell Spine Clinic today.