Sciatica during Pregnancy

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Pregnancy and Back Pain, Sciatica


Pregnancy and Sciatica
Sciatica and Pregnant

Sciatica during pregnancy is a very common complaint among my clients - but why are pregnant women prone to sciatica?

Are you pregnant and suffering with a pain that runs down your back or the side of your leg? If so, this may be pregnancy sciatica.

Sciatica is a pain that travels along the course of a nerve coming from your lower back and running down the back of your leg as far as your ankle. The nerve in question is called your sciatic nerve.

There are many causes of sciatica, but generally it is due to any structure (in other words a bone, disc or muscle) that, if not functioning correctly, can potentially impinge on the sciatic nerve - leading to pain. Another cause of sciatica is a tightness in the sciatic nerve itself, which requires physiotherapy intervention.

So, why are pregnant women prone to sciatica?

The main cause of sciatica in pregnancy is from the natural changes in the posture and alignment of your lower back that develop during pregnancy. As your Baby - and your associated bump - gets bigger the additional weight increases the depth of the curve in your lower back, causing an increase in the pressure on your joints and your sciatic nerve. The hormones related to pregnancy also cause a laxity in the ligaments around the base of your spine - which can further increase the pressure in this area.

These combined factors can result in the joints of your lower back (or the muscles and ligaments attaching them together) to press on your sciatic nerve. This typically causes a certain type of hip and leg pain, which is commonly called sciatica (see sciatica symptoms for more). Treatment for sciatica during pregnancy is usually very successful. Firstly, you must receive a correct diagnosis that sources the structure or movement that is impinging your sciatic nerve. A Physiotherapist is the best person for this job.

Once a diagnosis has been made, your physiotherapist will make minor adjustments to your spine and tissues where required. They will follow this with advice and positioning work that will reduce the risk of re-occurrence as your baby continues to grow. Appropriate exercise for sciatica may also be required for you to do on a daily basis. It is essential that you carry out exercise only after a diagnosis as the wrong exercise may exacerbate your sciatica.

Occasionally, your baby’s position in the womb may also cause your sciatic nerve to be impinged. In these cases patience may be required! Ask your baby politely to move!

If you continue to have sciatica-type symptoms after your baby is born please seek immediate professional help, as it suggests a mal-alignment in your back. If you leave this mal-alignment in place for too long, it may lead to longer term back problems.

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While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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