Sciatic Nerve Relief- How To Treat A Real Pain In The Butt!
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is a term used to describe compression of a very specific (and large) nerve that exits your spine in the lumbar (low back) region and travels right down to your butt and back of your legs into your feet. Sciatic nerve symptoms are usually felt down the length of this nerve as a sharp or burning pain that may be constant or intermittent. It can present as sudden back pain or hip or leg pain. Oftentimes this pain is also accompanied by numbness, tingling or weakness on its path. There are varying degrees of involvement and some people may only experience parts of this presentation.
Sciatic nerve symptoms are usually felt down the length of this nerve as a sharp or burning pain that may be constant or intermittent.
How did it happen?
If this is something that started with pregnancy, it is most likely a combination of factors that got you here. The relaxin that causes your ligaments to soften can create more movement in the joints in your pelvis. Your muscles will often tighten up to stabilize this extra mobility. Both of these factors are potential contributors to the compression of your sciatic nerve. Some people may also have Piriformis Syndrome when one of the muscles in the buttocks (piriformis) may be squeezing this nerve and creating compression with movement or sitting.
The other possibility during pregnancy is that as your baby grows she may actually be sitting in a position that is placing pressure on the nerve.
Some of your postural habits may have added up over time to create this condition as well. The position you sleep or sit in and how many hours you spend doing these things are factors. If you are tied to your desk and sit a lot during your day or have less than perfect posture, this may be part of the problem.
Will it ever go away?
Many women are told by their doctors that this pregnancy-induced sciatica will go away when their little bundle arrives and to just tough it out until they deliver. In my experience, they are right…in part.
Yes, this nerve compression is sometimes caused by the position of the baby and when the babe is no longer pushing on the sciatic nerve, the pain disappears. Even when the pain is being caused by nerve compression from tight muscles or nerves being compressed nerves as they exit the spine, there is a good chance that early changes in posture postpartum can alleviate some of this pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Yes, this nerve compression is sometimes caused by the position of the baby and when the babe is no longer pushing on the sciatic nerve, the pain disappears.
The part of the “just stick it out until you deliver” method that I don’t like is that some women start experiencing sciatica early in in their pregnancies. If I started having sciatic pain at 14 weeks, I would prefer some options to help me through the next 2/3 of my pregnancy!
What can I do about it NOW?
Don’t just sit there!
Making sure that you’re getting up and moving around is important. If you sit all day at a desk, set a timer on your phone or stick a post it on your computer screen that reminds you to get up and move every 30 minutes. Even if you just stand up and walk in place at your desk for 30 seconds it will help to loosen these muscles and provide a little proprioceptive stimulation to your joints. This can help to increase circulation and pump inflammation out of the joints that may be contributing to the irritation of this nerve.
Even if you just stand up and walk in place at your desk for 30 seconds it will help to loosen these muscles and provide a little proprioceptive stimulation to your joints.
Stretch! Nerve pain stretches
Here are a few to try:
Figure four stretch:
Sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor and shoulders back and spine straight. To stretch your right side, place your right ankle on your left knee. Try to lower the right knee so that your shin becomes parallel to the floor. If this is too painful, just go as far as you can to feel a mild stretch. Then, keeping your shoulders back, lean forward from the hip joint and feel a deeper stretch behind your hip. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Cross body pull:
Lying on floor with legs flat, bend affected knee and place that foot on the floor on the outside of the opposite knee. Gently pull the knee of the affected side toward the floor away from the affected side until you feel a stretch in the affected hip. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, transfer your body weight to your arms as you gently extend the unaffected leg behind your back as you keep the affected side crossed in front of you. You should now begin to feel a stretch in the affected hip. Slowly begin to take the weight off your arms as you settle in to feel a deeper hip stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
Get Checked Out!
Since many cases of sciatica begin as a result of stress in your spinal or pelvic joints or muscle tightness, your chiropractor can perform an assessment to determine the cause of your pain and develop a treatment plan to correct any imbalances that may be contributing. She may recommend gentle adjustments, postural modifications and some stretching or strengthening exercises to remove the nerve pressure and restore balance to your spine and pelvis.
If you are pregnant, make sure to find a chiropractor that has unique training and experience in caring for pregnant women.
Exercise in pregnancy is safe!