What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is the pain that occurs along the course of the sciatic nerve. It occurs due to compression of the nerve and results in lower back pain radiating down to the back of the legs. This pain is usually sharp and shooting. Numbness in the leg and pins and needles sensation is felt in the leg, feet, and toes. Some patients also have weakness of lower limb muscles which makes standing and walking difficult. In severe cases, bladder and bowel control are also affected.
Why does Sciatica happen in Pregnancy?
The growing baby and expanding uterus increase the pressure on the sciatic nerve. The weight of the growing fetus and its position in the uterus are prime determinants of the pressure on the sciatic nerve. In pregnancy, the relaxin hormone released in the body makes the ligaments around the pelvis lax in preparation for childbirth. This laxity of ligaments and increased weight in the belly and breasts shifts the center of gravity forward from its normal position. To compensate, the muscles of the lower back and the buttocks tighten up and go into spasms if they are weak, which can exert pressure on the sciatic nerve. Underlying preexisting conditions like sacroiliac joint disorders or piriformis syndrome increases the likelihood of causing Sciatica during Pregnancy.
Sciatica is usually seen in the third trimester but can occur anytime. It can be unilateral or bilateral.
Stretches to ease Sciatica pain–
- Seated Piriformis Stretch– Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Now, cross your affected side ankle on the opposite knee. Keep your back straight and lean forward. You will feel a stretch on your lower back and buttocks. Hold for ten seconds and repeat five times. If both sides are affected, repeat on another side too.
2. Pelvic Tilts-Lie down with knees flexed and pointing towards the ceiling, flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles, and then roll your pelvis backward. Repeat five times.
3. Cat and Cow Stretch-Kneel on the ground. Keep your shoulders over your hands and your knees spaced hip-width apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles and arch your spine up toward the ceiling. Hold for ten seconds, relax, and then hollow your back. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat five times.
4. Hamstring stretch-Sit on the floor with one leg out straight. Bend your other leg at the knee such that the sole of your foot rests against the inner thigh of the other extended leg. Pull your toes towards you. Now reach forward to touch the toes of your outstretched leg by bending at the hips. Keep your back straight. Hold for 10 seconds and do three reps on each side.
Besides the stretches, applying hot packs on the lower back, gentle massage, and warm baths help with sciatica pain. Use a pregnancy pillow while sleeping to support your body and take pressure off the sciatic nerve.
Tips to avoid Sciatica in Pregnancy-
- Postural modification- While sitting, ensure equal weight distribution. Avoid leaning on one side of the body.
- Avoid standing and sitting for prolonged periods. Take frequent breaks. Go for walking.
- Do regular gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility.
- Keep your core, pelvic girdle muscles, glute, and lower back muscles strong.
STAY HEALTHY! STAY ACTIVE!