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6 Tips to Relieve Sciatica During Pregnancy

6 Tips to Relieve Sciatica During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of life’s most joyful experiences, but it’s not without its challenges. One is sciatica — a severe pain that travels from your lower back through your hips and legs. It usually occurs with a herniated disk or spinal bone spur, but a growing baby can put pressure on parts of your sciatic nerve and cause the same symptoms.

Spinal injections and surgery are the go-to treatments for persistent sciatic — but not when you’re pregnant. Dr. Patrick McNulty, one of the country’s leading orthopedic surgeons, explains how to manage the pain without harming your baby or yourself. 

Pregnancy-related causes of sciatic nerve pain

Your sciatic nerve is a workhorse. It starts in your lower back, travels through your hips and buttocks, and then travels down each leg, controlling various muscles in your lower body. During pregnancy, several factors can lead to sciatica:

When managing this sciatica pain during pregnancy, Dr. McNulty focuses on maintaining a safe environment for your growing child. 

Safe treatments for pregnancy-related sciatic nerve pain

Safe and low-impact treatments form the bedrock of your pain-relieving arsenal during pregnancy. Here are four approaches to consider:

1. Lie on your side

Lying on the side that doesn’t hurt can relieve sciatic discomfort. Resting on the side opposite the pain can reduce the pressure on your sciatic nerve. 

This position can be especially helpful when resting or sleeping, times when your body is particularly susceptible to nerve compression.

2. Stretch strategically

Stretches that engage the muscles in your buttocks, legs, and hips can decrease sciatic nerve pain. For example, try the seated piriformis stretch by sitting on a chair, placing the ankle corresponding to your affected side on the opposite knee, and leaning forward while keeping your back straight. Here are some more stretches that are generally considered safe during pregnancy.

 

Note: Always check with your OB/GYN before starting a new exercise routine. 

3. Take a cue from physical therapy

Physical therapists have an arsenal of tools and techniques that help your body alleviate pain. 

One is using heat and cold alternately on your lower back and legs to reduce swelling and relax the muscles affected by sciatica. However, don’t overheat your body during pregnancy.

Massage therapy is another way to ease muscle tension and release the pressure on your sciatic nerve. Just remember that gentle, prolonged treatments rather than intense, short-lived applications often yield the most comfort.

4. Go for a swim

Water's buoyancy and nonimpact resistance make swimming a fantastic, nonstrenuous option for exercise during pregnancy. The gentle movements can soothe your muscles and reduce the nerve pain. However, it's essential to consult your obstetrician before beginning or continuing any fitness regimen.

5. Avoid heavy lifting and prolonged standing

Lifting heavy objects or standing for hours can strain your back, pelvic muscles, and spine. These activities can trigger a case of sciatica or exacerbate your existing problem. Sit down whenever possible to take the strain off your lower back, and leave the heavy lifting to others until after you deliver.

6. Elevate one foot while standing

When you must stand, distributing your body weight more evenly reduces the strain. Try elevating one foot on a step stool or low bench. This position alters your body’s center of gravity, easing the pressure on your lower back and sciatic nerve.

Professional treatments for sciatic pain

Pregnancy-related sciatica typically disappears after you deliver your baby, but if yours sticks around, Dr. McNulty can help. 

He starts by determining the underlying cause of your compressed nerve. He may recommend a spinal injection to reduce inflammation and ease the nerve pressure. If you have a structural issue, you may require surgical intervention to remove or repair a herniated disc or to widen a narrowed spinal canal.

Request an appointment online or call McNulty Spine in Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada, for more information on sciatica during pregnancy. 

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