Pain in the lower back, glutes and legs are among the typical complaints for many pregnant women. Especially in the late stages of pregnancy, the sudden, drawing pains can occur along the lower half of the body.
Sciatica is a colloquial term for all discomfort and pain around the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve, the longest and strongest nerve in the human body, begins in the lumbar spine and runs down the gluteal and leg regions to the feet. Pain can occur throughout the entire area where the nerve runs through.
Irritation of the sciatic nerve is often described as a dull, throbbing pain that comes on abruptly. Tingling, pulling, and increased sensitivity and even numbness and paralysis are typical symptoms. The pain travels from the lower back through the gluteal muscle and into the back of the thighs. Whether the pregnant woman is actually affected by a temporary and pregnancy-related irritation of the sciatic nerve, should, however, be clarified with a doctor, if necessary. The following listed symptoms are indicative of an irritation of the sciatic nerve:
- Spot pain in the leg, buttocks or back of the knee
- Adoption of a protective posture
- Acute, sudden occurrence of the pain
- Intensification of pain with continuous lying or sitting, heavy exertion, coughing or sneezing
- Pain relief when moving
Lower back pain is rarely true sciatica. Irritation of the nerve usually occurs only during pregnancy due to weight gain and hormonal changes, and therefore has no long-term consequences. The symptoms of pregnancy-related sciatic pain are relieved for most women after giving birth.
- Especially from the 35th week of pregnancy, when the uterus has already lowered slightly, the child in the uterus can put pressure on the nerve itself and the tissue above it. The nerve becomes irritated, overloaded or overstretched as a result.
- The pressure on the vena cava can cause venous congestion. The pooling of blood puts further pressure on the nerve.
- More weight is bearing down on the lower spine and the body's center of gravity shifts forward. This can lead to postural problems, such as a hollow back.
- Due to the changes in hormonal balance, connective tissue, muscles and the pelvic floor stretch and loosen. The back loses stability and muscle tension occurs, which can lead to a herniated disc. Again, the disc can press on the nerve.
If possible, no medications should be taken during pregnancy. The following alternative methods can provide relief from pregnancy-related sciatic nerve pain:
- POSTURE: Sciatic pain tempts you to adopt a protective posture and bend your body sideways. However, try to stay upright, otherwise the discomfort could possibly be aggravated. Pregnancy belts like the GraviBelt® support the back and lumbar spine and can help alleviate pregnancy-related discomfort such as back, pelvic & sciatic pain.
- IMMEDIATE ACTION: For acute and sudden pain, spinal relief is considered a short-term immediate measure. Support yourself and then lie down carefully. However, this approach is only for short-term symptom relief. Even if your instinct is to restrict movement and rest, this may be more likely to increase symptoms.
- EXERCISE: Even if exercise seems impossible, make sure you loosen up your muscles by walking or swimming. Yoga and stretching exercises can also provide quick relief and take pressure off the nerve. Preventively, pregnancy gymnastics can build up your back muscles.
- HEAT: Acute pain can be relieved by heat. The muscles loosen up with a hot water bottle, a warm bath or a cherry stone pillow. However, caution is advised here in advanced pregnancy! The heat close to the abdomen can trigger premature labor.
Furthermore, regular massages, acupuncture or physiotherapy should be considered. In case of very severe pain, the complaints should be clarified by a doctor.