How to Handle Sciatica During Your Pregnancy

Tips for getting relief from a common pain of pregnancy

Krista with husband

Add sciatica to the list of common aches, pains and discomforts of pregnancy. As your center of gravity shifts and ligaments loosen in preparation for labor, you may experience the shooting lower back and leg pain of a pinched or stressed sciatic nerve.

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Krista Afumbom has been dealing with sciatica for much of her second pregnancy. She has found a few remedies to relieve the recurring pain.

At 36 weeks, Ms. Afumbom is now in the home stretch. After nine months of discomfort and pain, as well as a long, brutal Ohio winter, she wants her baby boy to arrive sooner rather than later.

“I’m in the hard part right now,” she says. “He’s already dropped. I’m thinking I’m not going to make it to 40 weeks. I’m huge right now!” Ms. Afumbom plans to deliver her baby at Lakewood Hospital.

A burning, radiating pain

Earlier in Ms. Afumbom’s pregnancy, pain along her left side began plaguing her. The Lakewood mother and nurse knew it was not a pulled muscle or ligament causing the burning sensation.

“My dad has dealt with sciatic pain so as soon as I started having this burning, radiating pain, I knew exactly what it was,” she says.

Sciatica is a condition that feels like a shooting pain down your lower back and legs, along the sciatic nerve. It results from a pinched or inflamed sciatic nerve. It is very common in pregnancy and often develops in the third trimester, according to OB/GYN Rebecca Starck, MD, Department Chair, Regional Obstetrics & Gynecology, Cleveland Clinic.

Pain grows as pregnancy advances

During pregnancy, Dr. Starck explains, the hormone relaxin increases, which helps prepare the pelvis for childbirth by relaxing ligaments. As ligaments loosen and the body’s center of gravity shifts, the sciatic nerve can shift and get pinched, which results in a shooting pain sensation down the buttocks and back of the legs.

“As a result, there may be a lot more aches and pains. And in a second pregnancy, there are more symptoms earlier and more exaggerated,” Dr. Starck says.

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“It’s new territory for me,” Ms. Afumbom says. “I’ve been dealing with sciatica for quite a while now. It’s not constant; it comes and goes. I’ll be relieved from the pain for a while, my pelvis will go out of alignment and then I’ll have to deal with it again.”

Remedies for relief

Ms. Afumbom takes a homeopathic remedy of St. John’s wort to help with pain relief, and also sees a chiropractor regularly. In addition, she does stretches to help reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve during physical therapy appointments.

Dr. Starck suggests several approaches to ease the discomfort of sciatica during pregnancy:

  • Take warm showers.
  • Use a warm heating pad.
  • Practice yoga.
  • Have massage therapy.
  • See a chiropractor.
  • Take medicine for pain relief. Dr. Starck recommends Tylenol® to help relieve pain and soreness.
  • Go to physical therapy. Dr. Starck recommends getting an evaluation and learning stretching and strengthening exercises.

“Physical therapy can do a lot to relieve pain during pregnancy,” Dr. Starck says. “The good news is that sciatica almost always goes away after pregnancy.”

To hear more of Krista’s story, please go to this post.

krista-afumbom updated bio box

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