Sciatica During Pregnancy
Treating Sciatica in Pregnant Women
In the event a woman does have sciatica, physicians and patients typically want to be conservative with treatments — avoiding medication and unnecessary procedures if possible. Because it's well known that sciatica can occur during pregnancy, most women understand it may just be part of the gestation process and try to cope as best they can without invasive treatments. They should still let their doctors know about the pain, though, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA).
There are a few things pregnant women can do to relieve sciatica that do not require medication or invasive treatments.
- “Resting and stretching are important, as is discussing the issue with your obstetrician,” says Stephen Tolhurst, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute in Flower Mound.
- When lying down, lie on the side of your body opposite the pain. According to the APA, this position may help alleviate some of the pressure on the nerve.
- Avoid heavy lifting.
- Avoid standing for long periods.
- Exercise, such as swimming, can provide some relief.
- Applying hot or cold compresses to painful areas may help, according to the APA.
- Acupuncture can help with low back pain and possibly sciatica.
- Try wearing a maternity support belt.
- Book a few sessions with a physical therapist to learn proper positioning techniques and how to transfer in and out of bed as well as in and out of chairs and automobiles, Dr. Patel suggests.
More involved treatments aren’t off the table, especially for women who need them.
“If the pain is severe or she has neurologic findings (sensory changes or weakness), we can still perform a spinal injection to relieve pain, using ultrasound rather than X-ray guidance,” says David A. Spinner, DO, director of pain medicine and endoscopic lumbar surgery for the department of rehabilitation medicine at Mount Sinai and an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, who specializes in treating pregnant women who have sciatica.
X-rays are avoided during pregnancy because radiation can harm the fetus.
Most doctors will approve a patient for an MRI if they feel it is needed, but only after the second trimester, Mukai says.
“I usually get patients into pelvic therapy with a certified pelvic therapist to work on looking at the pelvic floor function and teach techniques to try to self-correct alignment issues,” she said. “I also recommend a pregnancy support belt or an SI joint belt to help support the pelvis.
Women are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider if the pain becomes constant, gets more frequent, or becomes more severe, the APA advises.
Video: Krista's Pregnancy Blog- Sciatica
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