Chiropractic Tips for Sciatica and Aches and Pains of Pregnancy
One of the more common pregnancy pains I treat as a chiropractor is sciatica.
Growing a baby is a wondrous thing that also asks a lot of the body. Aches and pains in pregnancy are quite common. One of the more common pregnancy pains I treat as a chiropractor is sciatica pain. Sciatica is commonly felt as pain in the low back or glute that moves down the back of the leg, usually stopping at the knee. The discomfort is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is the thickest and biggest nerve in the body. It runs from the low back and through the deep muscles of the glute. Sciatica can be caused by spine or disc issues or muscles spasms in the pelvic or glute muscles pinching the nerve and causing radicular symptoms. This is why it’s is important to see a provider to figure out what is causing the pain. If you are experiencing sciatica and aches and pains of pregnancy keep reading to learn some tips to ease your pain.
Why is sciatica common during pregnancy?
It is common to have sciatica symptoms during pregnancy. This is due to the change in gravity, extra pressure on the lumbar spine, inactivity, and muscle tightening that goes along with all the changes your body goes through while carrying a baby. The hormone relaxin is produced throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding to relax the ligaments. This allows joints to stretch and open to create more space for your baby. This ligament laxity in the pelvis can mean there is less stability in the joints. This can result in that muscle tension and nerve compression. Due to all this laxity, the structure of the pelvis can shift. This shifting can cause pain in the front of the pelvis, in the low back and sacrum or deep in the buttock.
Some common conditions that may contribute to sciatica pain:
Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction is an issue at the joint at the front of the pelvis, the pubis symphysis. This can feel like a heavy pressure or a sharp pain with certain movements like walking up stairs, putting on pants or rolling over in bed.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, this can feel like instability or like your back may ‘give out’ with the wrong move. It can also feel like pain in the joint at the back of the pelvis that is sharp or achy.
Piriformis Syndrome is a pain deep in the bum. It is essentially a spasm of the piriformis muscle that can pull on it’s attachement point on the sacrum or compress the sciatic nerve. The pain usually feels like a numbness in the buttocks and/or radiating pain down the back of the leg.
What should one do about the pain?
It is best to see a provider to find out the root of what is causing you pain. Treatment and things you can do to help at home will differ depending on your diagnosis. Movement and stretching can be a very helpful remedy for sciatica and some of the conditions that cause it. However, it is important to be assessed or know what the underlying cause is before starting a home program. Below you will find three stretches that may aid in easing sciatica symptoms from muscular tension or piriformis syndrome.
How to ease sciatica pain in pregnancy:
Start in the standing position and bring one leg up onto an elevated surface. The height of the surface can vary depending on your flexibility. Whether it’s a step, a stool, a chair, or a tabletop, go to whatever height you can get to comfortably. Keep your knee straight but not locked, and slowly hinge forward from your hips, sticking your booty back out behind you until you feel a good stretch down the back of your elevated leg. You can vary where you feel the stretch by turning your toes in and out or rotating your body to face out to the side or more directly forward. Hold this for up to 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Stand up straight behind a chair or table. Stand close enough that you can bring your leg up in front of you and touch the chair back. Bend your right knee to ninety degrees and lift it up onto the back of the chair so your lower leg is parallel to the ground. Keep your back straight, bend your left knee and go down into a mini squat until you feel a stretch in the right glute. Hold this for up to 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other leg.
In a pinch, you can also stretch your glute in the sitting position. Sit on the edge of a chair with feet flat on the floor. Bring one ankle up onto the opposite knee. Keep your back straight, hinge at the hips until you feel a stretch in the glute muscle of your elevated leg. Hold for up to 30 seconds, and repeat on the opposite side.
Back Line Stretch:
This is one of the few stretches I give that is not for one specific muscle only, and it’s also picky about position. Make sure you keep your low back in neutral at all times and only bend at the hips.
In front of a chair or table, start in a standing position with feet hip width apart, toes point forward, and knees locked. Hinge forward at the hips until your hands or elbows can rest on the surface in front of you. You should feel a deep stretch going from your glutes down the back of your legs to your calves. You shouldn’t feel a stretch in your low back. If you don’t feel the stretch yet, you can hinge down farther onto a lower surface. Hold here for 1 to 2 minutes. As the muscles release, if you’re resting on your hands, see if you can lower down to your elbows while maintaining a straight back to get a deeper stretch.
When you’re done, bend your knees a little bit to push yourself back upright. Do this stretch whenever you have time during the day. Such as, while you’re on hold on the phone, waiting for your coffee to brew, or listening to your voicemails. Doing this daily will help stretch the back of your legs and release the fascia of your back line.
You don’t have to live with sciatica pain throughout your pregnancy. Please join me and acupuncturist Erin Brockmeyer for a free class on how to Naturally Manage the Common Pains and Hormonal Changes of Pregnancy on May 11th at Zenana Spa. You can also check out my E-book, The Unstoppable Mom, for more holistic support for pregnancy and motherhood.