- Dr. Katie O'Connor
Is Pregnancy Literally a Pain in Your Butt? Let's Talk Sciatica!
First off if you're pregnant, congrats! People always talk about the glow of pregnancy, the joy of pregnancy, even the morning sickness...but it seems they often don't tell you about all the aches and pains that can come with pregnancy.
Studies show that up to 80% of women will experience some type of back pain in pregnancy! So what it sciatica? Sciatica is the name for what happens when inflammation causes irritation to the sciatic nerve. This nerve starts in your lower back and run through your rear end down the back of your leg. This is why many women not only feel pain in the back but get a burning feeling in their butt or even all the way down to the foot.
You'll know it's likely nerve pain/sciatica if you're experiencing:
- pain that feels like shooting/burning
- pain that travels from one place to another
- sharp pain in the buttocks (one or both)
- trouble getting up and down from chairs/car without pain
- pain in the lower back/legs while sleeping/rolling over
Why now? What is it about pregnancy that causes this to suddenly pop up, after all, your just over here trying to grow a human! There are a few different reasons this can happen.
As a chiropractor who specializes in prenatal care, I see pregnant moms all the time who are dealing with sciatica. The most common reason is that the joints of their lower spine and pelvis aren't balanced correctly. This happens to people often whether their pregnant or not and is a reason that people get chiropractic care.
The reasons that it can often lead to sciatica in a woman who is pregnant more easily than one who isn't is twofold. First, the body is shifting and adding weight. As the belly grows and expands to accommodate baby is not only gets heavier but it can cause the spine to shift its position. If in fact there was already an imbalance, this shift can lead to a lot of joint inflammation which in turn irritates the sciatic nerve. The second factor is a hormone called relaxin. As your pelvis gets ready for birth, it needs to have the ligaments that hold it close together able to stretch a bit so the pelvis can let baby through. While this is very necessary, an imbalanced pelvis loosening up can become more imbalanced leading again to inflammation and sciatic nerve irritation.
So what's a girl to do? Obviously you can't stop your belly from growing, your spine from shifting or your pelvis from opening so how do we stop the pain?? Great news, there's a simple fix!
Go find yourself a chiropractor! Chiropractors use gentle methods without medications to get the body back into balance. If you are pregnant, you'll want to find one that specializes in pregnancy. Your body is going through a unique time right now, and you need a doctor that knows the ins and outs of prenatal care well. After all, you wouldn't expect your regular doctor to be your obstetrician or midwife! You're going to want to find a chiropractor certified in Webster Technique who is treating pregnant women regularly.
The Webster Technique in short, is a pregnancy specific gentle form of chiropractic that helps the ligaments, pelvis and uterus get back into a state of balance. Not only does this alleviate that pesky sciatic pain, it has also been shown to decrease labor times and help the baby be in the correct position for birth!
In the meantime, while you search out the right chiropractor, there are a few other things that you can do to help minimize the pain, although they won't fully solve to problem.
You can stretch. The sciatic nerve runs through a muscle known as the piriformis. Stretching your glutes and the piriformis along with them can relieve some of the tension on the nerve giving some needed temporary relief. There are plenty of resources for these types of stretches online.
You can also get a quality prenatal massage. Just like finding the right chiropractor for pregnancy, you want to be sure that your massage therapist is experienced in prenatal care. Similar to stretching, massage can loosen the taut muscles, relieve inflammation and give a temporary relief to the situation.
Many women I've talked to tend to just "wait it out", especially if it doesn't pop up until the third trimester. While that's certainly an option, it isn't something I'd recommend. If the pelvis isn't balanced now, simply having your baby isn't going to balance it by itself most of the time. This ends up being a recipe for problems that "pop back up" as your baby gets older and heavier, and now you're dealing with a long term issue while trying to run after a toddler.
Looking for a good chiropractor but not sure if you've found the right one?
I recommend looking at their website. Does it look like they specialize in pregnancy or does it appear that they treat athletes, older folks, kids and everyone else? While it's fine to be a sports medicine chiro, or a general family chiro, a doctor that sees all these different populations typically won't have as much experience with the ins and outs of advanced prenatal care.
Check for Webster Certification. While this isn't necessary to help with sciatica specifically, it shows that they have taken the time to educate themselves further in pregnancy care. You can simply google "Webster Certified Chiropractor" or even better, you can look on the ICPA website at the list of those certified by location near you!
It's time to enjoy pregnancy again, pain free!
Dr. Katie O'Connor is a Webster Certified prenatal chiropractor. In practice for over 10 years, she is passionate about all things pregnancy and helping women have the best experience possible while becoming a mother.
16335 S. Harlem Ave
Tinley Park IL 60477
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