Pregnancy and back pain are unfortunate bedfellows for many women. Weight gain (mostly concentrated in the front), loosened ligaments (due to the hormones of pregnancy), ab muscles stretched to the limit, sore joints and a shifting center of gravity are all possible causes of back pain during pregnancy. While most women will experience two more general types of back pain, posterior pelvic pain, which is pain very low in your back, close to your buttocks, and lumbar pain, which is in your lower back. Many women will even experience both types of back pain. While many pregnant women may feel that they are experiencing sciatic pain during pregnancy, in reality, only approximately 1% or pregnant women have true sciatica.
Sciatica is pain along the sciatic nerve, which runs down the lower back down the legs. Typically, sciatica is caused by an inflamed or bulging disc in the back that is putting pressure on the nerve, resulting in pain, shooting pain, tingling, and numbness from the lower back, and sometimes, all the way to the toes. Some pregnant women may experience sciatic pain during pregnancy because they are more prone to back injury, or the added weight and strain has resulted in a back injury. Sciatica during pregnancy will hurt more than your run of the mill back pain and soreness, and may radiate down to the back of your legs, thighs, feet and toes. Your buttocks, groin, genital area and legs may feel tingly and numb.
If you suspect that you are experiencing something more serious than the typical back pain associated with pregnancy, and you may have sciatica, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. He or she will work out a treatment plan for you to cope with the pain of sciatica during pregnancy — you shouldn’t have to suffer or be incapacitated because you believe that back pain is just another pregnancy symptom you should have to endure.
Sciatic pain during pregnancy is a higher risk for women who are overweight to begin with, are not physically active, and who may already suffer from a previous back injury. It’s smart to start out a pregnancy in the best shape you can, to help avoid sciatic pain during pregnancy. The following are some tips to help you avoid back pain and sciatica during pregnancy:
- Establish a consistent routine of stretching and exercise with activities such as swimming and yoga.
- Focus on strengthening your core muscles.
- When sitting, support your lower back with a lumbar pillow.
- Avoid heavy lifting. If you do have to lift something, practice safe lifting.
- Wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
- Get enough sleep on a comfortable bed. Use a maternity pillow to help you find the best sleep position for you (pregnant women should sleep on their left side).
- Relax when possible.
- Talk to your doctor about pregnancy massage, acupressure or chiropractic treatment.