How to Handle Sciatica During Your Pregnancy

Tips for getting relief from a common pain of pregnancy

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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A burning, radiating pain

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’s very common in pregnancy and often develops in the third trimester, according to ob/gyn Rebecca Starck, MD.

Pain grows as pregnancy advances

During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin increases, which helps prepare the pelvis for childbirth by relaxing ligaments, says Dr. Starck. 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 can be a lot more aches and pains. And sometimes in a second pregnancy, there are earlier and more exaggerated symptoms,” Dr. Starck says.

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Sciatic nerve pain in pregnancy usually comes and goes, but it can also be constant.

Remedies for relief

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

  • Take warm showers.
  • Use a heating pad.
  • Practice yoga.
  • Try massage therapy.
  • See a chiropractor.
  • Take medicine for pain relief. Dr. Starck recommends Tylenol® to help relieve pain and soreness.
  • Go to physical therapy. Get an evaluation and learn stretches and strength exercises to help ease pain.

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

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