Sciatica can be a pain in the butt — literally. Sciatica, a tingling and/or shooting pain and numbness in your butt and thigh, is a common pregnancy side-effect, especially during the third trimester when your growing baby and uterus put pressure on your sciatic nerve. And since you may not be able to take pain medications like ibuprofen or naproxen when you're pregnant, it's natural to wonder how to safely treat sciatica during pregnancy.
As OB-GYN Rebecca Starck, MD tells Cleveland Clinic, sciatica occurs when your growing belly and baby shifts your center of gravity, the hormone relaxen causes your joints to relax, and your sciatic nerve ends up compressed. Fortunately, there are a few ways to treat sciatica at home, according to the Mayo Clinic, including applying ice or heat or gentle stretching. According to Karen Nordahl, MD a Family Physician and author of Fit to Deliver, the best way to treat sciatica during pregnancy might actually be to move your body as much as you can. While it may seem counter-intuitive to exercise when you are in pain, strengthening your core and pelvic floor can actually help relieve sciatica pain during pregnancy. According to the Cleveland Clinic two great (and safe!) exercises to try to relieve sciatica pain are yoga and swimming, which can take the pressure off your nerve and help you relax.
For more about these and other ways to treat your pregnancy sciatica, according to experts, read on:
Get A Massage
In case you need another reason to schedule a massage during your third trimester, according to the Cleveland Clinic massage therapy performed by a licensed therapist trained in prenatal massage can help relieve your sciatica pain.
Apply Ice Or Heat
According to the Mayo Clinic, most of the time you can treat your sciatica pain at home. The same site notes that you might try applying an ice pack to numb your pain for the first couple of days. Afterwards, however, you should try applying heat — like a heating pad, hot pack, or even a warm shower — to help soothe your sciatica pain.
Put Your Feet Up
What to Expect recommends taking the pressure off your sciatic nerve to relieve your pain by literally getting off your feet and finding a comfortable position to relax. Since sciatica generally only impacts one side of your body, you might find that laying on one specific side of your body with a pillow between your knees is just what your aching butt and leg needs to find relief from sciatica pain and numbness.
Roll It Away
According to Healthline, one way to relieve sciatica pain during pregnancy is to sit on a foam roller or tennis ball to give yourself a butt and leg massage. Essentially, just roll those sour spots away.
The Cleveland Clinic website recommends pregnant women try gentle stretches ,that are often incorporated in prenatal yoga, to help with pregnancy sciatica pain. As registered yoga teacher and birth educator Liza Janda writes on her website, yoga poses that stretch your legs, hips, pelvis, and back — like cat/cow, pigeon, low squats, and forward folds — can help relieve sciatica pain.
Get In The Water
As What to Expect notes, since sciatica pain is caused primarily by pressure on your nerve from your growing baby and changing body, you might find that getting in a pool or warm bath — and consequently taking the weight off your aching leg and butt — will help relieve your pregnancy sciatica pain.
Get Some Exercise
Nordahl recommends that her patients stay as active as they can during pregnancy. As she writes for the University of British Columbia website, getting regular exercise throughout your pregnancy can strengthen your abdominal and back muscles and pelvic floor, and help you maintain a healthy weight, all of which can actually help prevent and treat sciatica.
See A Physical Therapist
When all else fails, it's never a bad idea to see a professional, especially if your sciatica pain is interfering with your life or mental health. According to Indianapolis-based spine physician Dr. Meredith Langhorst, a physical therapist can work with you to come up with an individualized home exercise program, stretches, and other therapies to help ease your sciatica pain. So, if other remedies don't work, ask your OB-GYN for a referral.