Sciatica is incredibly common during pregnancy. It can be so bad that some women have trouble walking even a short distance. Plus, sleeping is hard enough during pregnancy— it’s nearly impossible when you add sciatica to the mix.
Fortunately, there are a number of natural ways to relieve sciatica during pregnancy. Keeping yourself and the baby healthy should be your top priority. So, you may not want to do anything that you otherwise might, like take over the counter pain relievers, which is understandable. Try these natural ways to safely relieve sciatica during pregnancy.
Is it Really Sciatica?
Sciatica is characterized mostly by pain, usually on one side of the body.
- Pain down the buttock, back of the thigh, and sometimes all the way down to the foot.
- The pain can be constant or occasional.
- Usually a shooting pain. It has also been described as sharp and shooting.
- May cause numbness and weakness down the leg.
- Can make it difficult to walk, sit, and stand.
1. Sciatica Pregnancy Stretches
One of the best things you can do for your body during pregnancy is stretching. The stretches listed below are not only good for relieving and preventing sciatica, but they’re also great for your overall health and wellness. Remember, keeping your mind and body healthy helps to keep your baby healthy, too. So, here are some stretches you can perform for sciatica during pregnancy.
Piriformis Stretching (Seated)
The piriformis muscle is often the culprit to blame for sciatica during pregnancy. This stretch can help reduce irritation of the sciatic nerve— plus it feels really good.
- Sit in a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.
- Raise the foot of the affected leg and place the outside of that ankle on the opposite knee.
- Maintain a straight back as you lean forward until you feel a stretch through the affected buttock.
- Hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds, stretching out that muscle.
- Perform three times.
- Repeat as often as you like during the day.
This yoga pose is great for stretching the hip flexors and buttocks. If you have tight hips, you’ll want to ease into this. Don’t go any further than feels comfortable for you.
- Start on all fours, with knees under hips and hands under shoulders.
- Slide your left knee forward and place it between your hands on the floor.
- Stretch your right leg straight back behind you, bringing your hips closer to the floor.
- Place a rolled-up towel or a yoga block under your left buttock for support and to provide some space for your belly.
- Keeping your spine as neutral as possible, lean your upper body over your left leg. You can use a regular pillow (or two) for support, or you can place your elbows on the floor, if possible.
- Hold for 30-seconds to 1 minute.
- Repeat 3 or more times during the day.
2. Heat and Ice Therapy
The body tends to swell during pregnancy, which can irritate the sciatica nerve in a few different ways. Using heat and ice therapy correctly can help reduce the pain and swelling as well as help you relax.
Whenever sciatica pain strikes, you can use an ice pack, frozen water bottle, or even a bag of frozen veggies, to reduce pain and swelling. But, even if your pain is in the buttock or leg, apply the ice pack to your low back. The sciatic nerve is almost always irritated as it exits the spine in the low back.
Make sure to place a towel or cloth between the ice pack and your skin and don’t hold it in place for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.
Although ice usually does the trick for sciatica, you can use a heated pad after you use the ice pack for a soothing, relaxing, and healing session. Make sure you wait an hour between ice and heat sessions. And avoid doing either if you have nerve damage or pre-existing conditions that may be affected by extreme temperatures.
3. Sciatica Pregnancy Massage
First off, getting a professional massage during pregnancy is safe. Not only is it safe, but it can be a huge relief. Prenatal massage is done in a slightly different manner than regular massage, but the benefits are similar: stress relief, relaxation, pain relief, healing promotion, and, of course, sciatica relief.
Tell your massage therapist that you’re suffering from sciatica and they will target the area of your low back, buttocks, and legs to relieve the pressure on the nerve. All this while you’re lying on your side so you don’t put undue stress on the baby or your body!
Chiropractic massage is excellent during pregnancy— especially for those suffering from sciatica. In fact, chiropractic care is good for pain relief during pregnancy in general.
If you don’t choose a chiropractic massage, choose a massage therapist that specializes in prenatal massage.
4. Chiropractor for Sciatica During Pregnancy
If you’re looking for a more effective, safe, and natural way to relieve sciatica during pregnancy, head to a professional chiropractor. Many of the tactics on this list are often employed by chiropractors to help relieve sciatica pain. But they may also suggest spinal adjustments if your sciatica is severe and unbearable.
And don’t worry, chiropractic care is safe during pregnancy. There’s a misconception about the risks of chiropractic care during pregnancy, but it’s unfounded. It’s one of the safest non-invasive treatment options out there, pregnant or not.
In addition to relieving pain, chiropractic care can:
- Help you with stretches and physical therapy to prevent sciatica.
- Give you tips on how to maintain proper posture during pregnancy.
- Provide relief for postpartum back pain.
5. Other Tips for Sciatica Relief During Pregnancy
Now that we’ve covered the major tips, let’s talk about some small things you can add to your schedule to help with sciatica pain.
- Sleep on the opposite side as the pain— and use a full-body pillow for support.
- Avoid too much sitting. Although it may feel good to get off your feet for a while, too much sitting can exacerbate the problem.
- Go swimming. If at all possible, get in the water. It’s a good way to get exercise while pregnant and it takes some of the pressure off of your changing body.
- Consider acupuncture. This natural and ancient medicine is thought to be more effective than taking NSAIDs for sciatica, which is a no-no during pregnancy.
Should I Worry About Sciatica During the First Trimester?
Most women don’t experience sciatica until the third trimester. However, it’s not unheard of during the first or second trimester. If you do experience it at any time during your pregnancy, don’t be alarmed. It doesn’t affect your baby and almost always goes away after the pregnancy.
However, if the pain is severe or it’s keeping you from sleeping, it may be time to see a chiropractor or a doctor. The same can be said for the second and third trimesters. If the at-home tips above don’t work, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.