Sciatica During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, many women suffer from back pain, but they are not always caused by sciatica. Researchers estimate that approximately 34 % of the cases of back pain during pregnancy happens to be associated with pinching and/or inflammation of the spinal nerve roots – during pregnancy sciatica normally starts this way.
Causes Sciatica in Pregnancy
Sciatica during pregnancy may be caused by the following reasons:
- Weight gain. During normal pregnancy the weight of a women increases by 11-15 kg. As a result, the load on the spine increases substantially, and this can lead to the displacement of intervertebral discs and pinched spinal nerve roots. The likelihood of radiculitis is greatest among women who lead a sedentary lifestyle and rarely engage in sports;
- Change of posture. Pregnancy leads to a change of centre of gravity of the body, resulting in a gradual and often unnoticed changes in woman's posture and the way she moves. Because of this also increases the load on the spine and the likelihood of displacement of the vertebrae;
- Hormonal changes. During pregnancy hormones, relaxing the ligament to prepare the body for childbirth, are produced. As a result, the spine becomes less stable. However, this does not always lead to the sciatica and only in cases where there are factors that increase the risk of this malformation;
- Stress. Emotional stress increases the likelihood of various diseases, including sciatica. This is just one of the reasons why it is very important for pregnant women to control stress and, if necessary, seek medical help.
In addition, if a woman earlier had sciatica, the likelihood of repeated complications during pregnancy is rather high.
Treatment of Sciatica During Pregnancy
Fortunately, in the majority of cases the pain caused by sciatica, passes in several weeks after its emergence, and you can relieve it with a variety of home remedies and OTC drugs. Exercise is needed to strengthen back muscles, and, hence, reduce the load on the spine.
For pregnant women suffering from sciatica yoga and other stretching exercises would be very useful, as well as easy strength exercises. It is very important to match the load level to fitness level of a women: if previously she was rarely engaged in sports, during pregnancy she must exercise with great care and preferably under the guidance of a coach. It is also worth to talk with your physician about which excercise are suitable for you and which are undesirable.
- Compresses. Cold or hot compresses help to relieve pain and inflammation caused by sciatica and do not cause any side effects, which is especially important for pregnant women. Apply compresses to the lower back or other parts of your spine (depending on where is the source of the pain) for 15-20 minutes at least twice a day. Many experts recommend alternating compresses: do cold compresses for two or three days, then hot compresses for another couple of days, then the cold ones again.
- Acupuncture. There is no scientific evidence that sciatica in pregnancy can be treated successfully with acupuncture, but many women around the world successfully use the services of experts in the field of alternative medicine. If you too want to try this treatment, we advise to consult your physician first.
- Massage is an effective and safe way to ease the pain caused by sciatica, but only if it is performed by an experienced professional who knows how to give pregnant women a massage. Ask your physician to advise you of a good masseuse or physiotherapist.
- Pain relievers. Pregnant women suffering from sciatica are advised, if possible, to cope without analgesics, but if the above mentioned remedies do not help to relieve the pain, you should consult to your physician. Typically, in such cases doctors advise to take paracetamol – it is relatively safe for pregnant women, and if you take it in moderate doses, it rarely causes side effects. Only in rare cases, a doctor may prescribe stronger painkillers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs.