The sciatic nerve is the largest in the body. It starts in the lower back, runs down through the buttocks, branches down the back of the legs to the ankles and feet. It can become irritated when the nerve is compressed, squashed/pinched/trapped or stuck.
Common causes of Sciatica in pregnancy:
- Your growing tummy and breasts shift your centre of gravity, causing slight changes in your spinal curvature, and a tightening in the muscles around your spine, pelvis and buttocks. This can pinch or squeeze the sciatic nerve causing pain and discomfort
- Weight gain, the expanding uterus and increased fluid retention can put pressure on the sciatic nerve where it passes through the pelvis, compressing it
- Baby position – especially when head down, or in transverse lie
- Reduced mobility and increased sedentary lifestyle (because of weight, tiredness or pain!)….causing structures around the pelvis and legs to tighten, reducing the freedom of the nerve to move
Symptoms of sciatica can primarily include sharp, shooting, burning pain felt in the lower back, buttocks, back of the thigh, the calf or around the ankle. It can also present as tingling or numbness in any of those areas. Most women typically experience pain just on one side, though you may feel it in both legs. The pain can be constant, or intermittent depending on the amount of pressure upon the nerve, and the location. Sciatica is usually worst during the late second into third trimester.
Physiotherapy for Sciatic Pain:
- Physical assessment of the spine, pelvis, legs, muscles, ligaments and nerves
- Posture assessment and correction
- Work, daily activities, lifestyle, sleep position assessment
- Manual therapy to help ease pressure on the nerve from the structures at fault
- Teaching exercises for mobilising the nerve, stretching muscles, strengthening muscles and improving posture, control and stability
- Pain management and therapeutic options
- Advice and suggestions on positioning, equipment, and support belts to help