We are thrilled to hear from our fit mom ambassador, Kristen Ross, regarding this common pregnancy symptom — sciatica. Read her pregnancy and sciatica article below.
I’m a first-time, mom-to-be to a daughter, expected to arrive in February 2015. I am the clinic manager, licensed physical therapist and lymphedema specialist at a orthopedic outpatient clinic in the Greater Boston area. I treat a variety of post-op patients, sport and work-related injuries, and overuse sprains and strains using modalities, therapeutic exercise, manual techniques and aquatic therapy. Outside of the clinic, I’m a Spinning instructor, yogi, runner, weight-lifter and up until my second trimester a soccer player. I love to cook healthy food for my friends and family, particularly anything Mexican! I live with my husband, (and best friend!), of seven years, where we met at college and live outside the Greater Boston area caring for our eight year-old King Charles Spaniel, Ellie. We love to travel and have taken exotic trips including a European back-packing adventure, a rustic Costa Rican zip-lining tour, a camping and safari trip to East Africa and a snorkeling and diving escapade in the Great Barrier Reef.
Pregnancy and Sciatica
- Causes, Treatment and Prevention
Sciatica is a condition that can cause shooting pain, numbness and tingling in your back, buttocks and/or legs. It is commonly triggered by the compression of the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body, that runs from the lumbar spine (lower back), down the back of each leg. Some women can experience this painful, yet temporary, syndrome in their second or third trimester of pregnancy due to numerous reasons including:
- A rapid increase in weight gain and fluid retention putting excess pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- A forward shift of your center of gravity as a result of your growing breasts and abdomen that can exaggerate the curve in the lumbar spine called a lordosis. This increase in lordosis can tighten the muscles of the low back and gluteals, compressing the sciatic nerve.
- A significant change of position and growth of your uterus pressing down on the lumbar spine and also the sciatic nerve.
- Finally, as your baby moves deeper into the birth canal, the baby’s head may put an increase strain on the pelvis and sciatic nerve.
Eat healthy! Cravings and temptation to eat in excess (particularly those late night helpings of Ben and Jerry’s), unfortunately pack on excess weight and increase pressure on the pelvic girdle and lumbar spine. Women should try to gain weight slowly over the course of the pregnancy. If you were at a normal body-mass-index pre-pregnancy, you should try to gain two pounds in the first trimester, eight more pounds in the second trimester, for a total of approximately thirty pounds by the end of your pregnancy.
Exercise! Regular, moderate aerobic exercise can help maintain a healthy pregnancy weight. Try one of the following: (1) Prenatal yoga can help stretch the tight muscles of the lumbar spine and gluteals, improve posture and assist with balancing and strengthening the core to accommodate your change in center of gravity. (2) The buoyancy of water aerobics or swimming can decompress the lumbar spine and sciatic nerve. (3) Taking Fido or inviting a friend to join you for daily walks can relax strain on the sciatic nerve.
Wear proper, supportive footwear! Wearing comfortable, flat shoes (particularly sneakers) can decrease the impact of ground reaction force to the pelvis and lumbar spine.
- Prenatal massage/acupuncture/physical therapy: a professional licensed practitioner can improve the flexibility and restrictions of the tight muscles in the low back and gluteals and provide helpful tips for proper stretching techniques
- Sleeping position: the use of a body pillow, especially between your knees in a side-lying position, can keep the lumbar spine and pelvis in a more neutral position alleviating excess pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Pelvic Tilts: Try lying down with your knees bent, tighten your abdominals and flattening your back against the floor or try Kegel exercises throughout the day.
- If the pain is severe, contact your OB GYN for the proper dosage of acetaminophen to keep you and your baby safe.
Even though sciatica can be a pain in the butt (literally!), these techniques mentioned above can assist with your symptoms. The pain is often temporary and will most likely resolve following the birth of your adorable bundle of joy (once you shed the excess weight and fluid that is putting the pressure on the nerve).
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