Sciatic nerve pain, also known as sciatica, feels like extremely painful tingling and/or pinching in the buttocks, down the leg, and around the hip bones. The sciatic nerve runs behind the uterus in the pelvis to the legs. Pre-natal sciatic nerve pain is caused by pressure on the nerve from the expanding uterus, and sometimes from the position of the baby.
Dealing with sciatic nerve pain is difficult for pregnant women, but there are several techniques to help assuage or head off extreme pain. During both of my pregnancies, I experienced sciatic nerve pain and developed an array of coping and treatment techniques. These techniques should work for any individual with sciatica, but take into account the special needs of pregnant women.
When suffering from sciatic nerve pain, sleeping is difficult, particularly if it is on your left side because lying on the opposite side of the pain helps relieve pressure from the nerve. One method to relieve back pressure, is sleeping with a body pillow.
Wrap your top leg over the pillow and shift your hips so your weight is distributed further across the bottom leg. Depending on the size of your belly, you can prop the pillow under your belly as well. Switch sides whenever you become uncomfortable, as this may help. Though this will not erase all of the pressure, sleeping with a body pillow definitely helps ease sciatic nerve pain.
A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Sitting in one place, especially in an uncomfortable chair or bucket seat, tends to cause sciatica flare up. Standing, walking, and stretching on a regular basis will help limit tension in the hips that contributes to sciatic nerve pain.
When you have to sit for long periods of time, try to sit forward as this takes pressure off of your hips. Sit on a slightly rolled towel if it helps to tip your weight forwards. Once an hour, alternately stretch out your legs, pointing and flexing your toes, as this will also create movement along the sciatic nerve.
Yoga helps lubricate the body’s joints and stretches muscles in a safe, gentle, and effective manner. Its additional meditative quality helps women relax and at least temporarily escape physical and mental discomfort. With sciatic nerve pain, it is important not to overstretch as this will actually make the pain worse so listen to your body. Several mat poses in particular gently stretch the back and relieve sciatic nerve pain.
Cat-cow: Start on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips, your hands below your shoulders, and a flat back (also known as Table Top position). This position immediately removes pressure from your lower back. Inhale, and bring your pelvis forward, rounding your back (Cat pose). Exhale, and move your pelvis back and toward the sky, curving your belly toward the ground (Cow pose). Be sure the motion is coming from your pelvis to get the most relief. Repeat at least three times.
Child’s pose: This is a pose of relaxation, and is wonderful at easing pressure off of your back. Start on your hands and knees, and spread your knees to make room for your belly between them. Sit back so your buttocks are resting on your heels, your forehead is on the ground, and your arms are stretched out in front of you. Breathe in this pose for several counts.
Downward Dog: This will stretch your back and hamstrings, and shift weight off and pressure of your pelvis and sciatic nerve area. Begin on your hands and knees with spread fingers. Curl your toes under, exhale and push your hips toward the sky into an inverted V. Gently push your heels toward the floor and look back toward your knees. To come out of the position, you can go into a plank position or back to your hands and knees. Downward Dog is a pose of strength, so be aware of how your arms and back feel in this pose.
Massage and/or Physical Therapy
If you can afford an occasional massage, or insurance will cover physical therapy sessions, both are excellent methods to relax tight muscles and pain caused by sciatica. Masseuses and physical therapists who are specially trained to work with pregnant women will know gentle and safe techniques to ease aches and pains. Physical therapists can teach you alternate ways of doing activities, as well as exercises to do that can help ease pressure off of the sciatic nerve.
Ultimately, the only cure for sciatic nerve pain for pregnant women is for the baby to shift position, relieving pressure on the nerve. However, using these tips, or a combination thereof, will help pregnant women cope with the pain and discomfort caused by sciatica.