Sciatica. Good News, It’s Not the Baby Sitting on a Nerve.

The greatest myth I know about pregnancy is about sciatica. As in, “Oh, you have sciatica? It is probably the baby sitting on a nerve.” Except the baby is in your uterus, and your sciatic nerve is in your rear end. Specifically, under your piriformis muscle that attaches both to your sacrum and your hip joint like a one-inch wide rubber band. When your baby grows, the extra weight in your belly tilts your sacrum forward, which pulls your piriformis tight over the sciatic nerve. Voila! Sciatica.
The Anatomy of Sciatica

Courtesy of Berlin, LLC and Informed Pregnancy

Usually I see this at my practice in women around 4-5 months pregnant, when they first really begin to “pop”, or later in the pregnancy when the baby has a growth spurt. The body hasn’t caught up yet with the new normal, and is working extra hard to balance your new shape. Sometimes it just causes mild discomfort, but often it can be so severe that it is painful to walk. One of my clients said it brought her to tears and she had to ask her husband to carry her to the bathroom several times a night because of it. You can only imagine both of them would want to hear something other than “there is nothing you can do about it.”

Good news, there is! (I know you saw this coming.) Here is my holy trinity of care that results in relief for sciatica, about 95% of the time:

• Massage. If you can get massage from a qualified prenatal massage specialist, she will help release the piriformis through a variety of techniques, and hopefully give you some postural guidance as well. (Tilting your pelvis flat against a wall is a good reminder of alignment.) Also, see my post on self-massage here.

• Sleep position. We all know pregnant women should sleep on their side. To prevent or reduce sciatica-like symptoms, make sure your top leg, from hip to knee, is parallel with the bed surface. That means get enough pillows underneath it so your knee isn’t dropping towards the bed. This will ensure your piriformis is relaxed all night long, relieving pressure on the nerve. The Lotus Leaf is designed to put you in perfect alignment to solve this problem.

• Stretch. Sit in a chair, crossing one ankle over your other knee. (An American half-lotus position, if you will.) Rotate your torso so your whole body is facing the bent knee and lean gently towards it. You should feel a stretch in that same side of your hip. Don’t be aggressive with this, just hold it for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

You can see it here: Stretch for Pregnancy Sciatica

When these three techniques are employed, suddenly women find that the baby is no longer “sitting on a nerve” (funny how that is) and that they are out of pain. This is usually the point at which pregnant women briefly lose their minds in relief and propose marriage to me. We all have a good laugh and go home happy.


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