Women Often Experience Back Pain During Pregnancy
Women often experience pain in their back or legs during pregnancy. As the woman’s abdominal muscles stretch and she gains weight, it is not uncommon for her to experience occasional backaches or leg cramps. Sometimes the pain is caused by a condition known as sciatica, or a pinched sciatic nerve.
What is the sciatic nerve?
The longest nerve in the human body is the sciatic nerve. It runs from the lower part of the back, down the buttock, and to the upper legs. Branches of the nerve run from the spine to the hip area. This nerve is important for supplying function and sensation to the backs of the thighs, lower parts of the legs and bottoms of the feet.
What causes sciatica (sciatic nerve pain)?
The sciatic nerve can become pinched or pressed from muscles spasms, degenerative disk disease or tumors. Sciatic nerve pain can also be caused by trauma from a fall or car accident. During pregnancy, sciatic nerve pain is most likely caused by the uterus placing pressure on the nerve. The sciatic nerve travels underneath the uterus, so as the womb expands and becomes heavier, pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve.
What are the symptoms of sciatic nerve pain?
Women who experience sciatic nerve pain may experience a stinging or shooting pain that travels down the lower back and into the leg. The pain may also be experienced as a dull ache or burning sensation. Sometimes women may also experience numbness, muscle weakness and tingling in the legs and feet. In very rare cases of sciatica, a loss of bladder control occurs.
What are the treatments for sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy?
While there is no way to completely stop the pain from occurring, there are a few things a woman can do to help alleviate pain. Women should pay careful attention to their posture and avoid wearing high heels, so they do not cause further strain to their back and legs. A physical therapist can teach the woman how to do exercises at home that will help alleviate the pain. Doing slow squats or pelvic tilts (standing against a wall and pressing the lower part of the back to the wall, then relaxing) can help. Some women find relief by laying on their side, on the opposite side of the pain.
A few other tips for treating sciatic nerve pain include:
- Receiving a prenatal massage
- Using a heating pad or ice pack
- Wearing a support belt
- Avoiding standing for prolonged periods of time and lifting heavy objects
Pregnant women should rest as much as possible and avoid activities that can strain the muscles in the legs or back. Sciatic nerve pain can be mildly uncomfortable or extremely painful. Women should notify their doctor if they experience any type persistent or severe pain during pregnancy. The doctor may prescribe pain medications that are safe to take during pregnancy or refer the woman to a physical therapist or chiropractor for further treatment.
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