Sciatica during pregnancy is very common and typically experienced increasingly as the pregnancy advances. Sciatica manifests as pain in the lower back radiating down the back of the legs and is typically experienced on one side only. The likelihood of developing sciatica increases as the pregnancy progresses.
There are numerous factors responsible for pregnancy-related sciatica. Some common causes of pregnancy-related sciatica are:
Increasing weight as the pregnancy progresses and related posture changes to balance body gravity increases the stress on the lower back. Pregnant women can gain anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds during pregnancy shifting the center of gravity and increasing the stress on the lower spine. The resulting stress often leads to compression of the spinal discs in the lower back triggering sciatica.
Mechanical alterations occur during pregnancy causing the spinal discs to compress causing additional stress on the spine. This compression occurring in the lower back often compresses the surrounding sciatica nerve roots leading to sciatica pain.
During pregnancy, the body undergoes several changes in the posterior pelvic region of the lower back stretching the sacroiliac joints which are the joints that connect your lower spine with the pelvis. This stretching sometimes irritates and compresses the sciatica nerve which manifests as pain in the lower back that often radiates down the buttocks to the back of the thighs.
Pregnancy also stretches the abdominal muscles to accommodate the enlarged uterus resulting in additional stress on the lower spine that may lead to spinal disc compression and resulting in a herniated disc, which is the leading cause of sciatica.
There is an increase in the production of the “relaxin” hormone during pregnancy. This hormone is responsible for widening the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus, by relaxing and softening the pelvis ligament in preparation for pregnancy.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy also cause inflammation. When the sciatic nerves are inflamed, it results in sciatica pain.
As pregnancy progresses and the uterus expands to accommodate the growing fetus, it puts pressure on the lower spine and pelvis region, which in turn compresses the sciatica nerve leading to sciatica pain.
Baby’s weight and position
During later stages of pregnancy, the baby’s weight and position, the sciatica nerves can be pinched and compressed causing sciatica.
As pregnancy progresses and your body gains weight as well as undergoes biomechanical changes it often changes your posture increasing the natural curvature of the spine, increasing stress on the lower back. This often compresses the sciatic nerve roots located in the region triggering sciatica.
Treatment for pregnancy-related sciatica
Although discomfort in the lower back is an inevitable part of pregnancy, lower back pain should be taken seriously to ensure the good health of both mother and baby. Consult a medical professional to diagnose your condition for an effective treatment plan.
Most cases of pregnancy-related sciatica are resolved within 6 months post-childbirth. However, some women experience persistent chronic pain post-pregnancy. Hence it is important to identify and treat your sciatica early for the best possible outcome.
Irrespective of the cause of your sciatica during pregnancy, most cases of pregnancy-related sciatica can be resolved through conservative treatment involving a combination of homecare treatments like hot and cold packs, physical therapy, chiropractic therapeutic massages, gentle stretches, and exercises to safely relieve your pain and discomfort. However, incorrectly done exercises and stretches can often worsen your pain. Contact South Orange Chiropractic to help you perform the correct exercise and stretch, provide therapeutic massage and treatment to safely manage your sciatica during pregnancy.