Pregnancy and Sciatica

Q: I have been unable to get help for low back and leg pain that started as I got into my 6th month of pregnancy. What is your opinion of what could be happening? Are you scared of treating a pregnant woman like I see from so many other healthcare providers?

A: Pregnancy poses all sorts of new physical sensations for the carrying mother. Unfortunately, lower back pain is one of them. Sciatica is another. It is a sharp, shooting pain that starts in the buttocks and radiates down the leg to the calf and sometimes to the heel. Sciatica can occur at any time during a pregnancy but is most common in the second and third trimester, when the baby is heavier and your muscles are beginning to adapt to the new mechanical load of the spine and pelvis. The pain comes from pressure on the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body about the diameter of a finger, from nearby muscles around the hip and pelvis. Massage that eases muscle tension can be an effective way to treat the pain, as can chiropractic treatment to return better alignment and balance to the pelvic bones.

Talk with your chiropractor about whether he/she is experienced in treating prenatal patients. Many of us are very comfortable with helping pregnant woman. In my office, we see up to 10 pregnant patients every week. We consider most conditions resulting from pregnancy easy to treat in most cases. You can reduce the likelihood of developing sciatica during pregnancy by keeping your weight properly balanced. Steps would include wearing flat shoes or shoes with a very low heel—the point is to avoid shoes that throw your weight backward. Avoid sitting for long periods at a computer, or standing with a baby on one hip, or walking on an incline. Sleep on a firm mattress. Talk with your chiropractor about ways to prevent and, if necessary, treat sciatica during pregnancy.

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