Sciatic and Lower Back Pain Relief for Pregnant Women!
Posted by Devon Jarvis
One of the most common reasons a pregnant woman seeks a massage therapist is for lower back pain and general and sciatica specifically. Within the general population, sciatic nerve pain can be caused by a disc herniation, direct or indirect trauma, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) or a combination of any of these factors. However, more often than not, “sciatic pain” is caused by a hypertonic muscle that is deep in the hip, the piriformis muscle (see fig 1). This particular disorder is called Piriformis Syndrome.
During pregnancy, this particular muscle is usually the culprit as it is a major muscle of the hip. As a pregnant woman’s hip bones move and change, the musculature does as well which can cause slight irritation of this muscle. As you can see in figure 1 (see below), the sciatic nerve runs very closely to the piriformis muscle. Depending on each person’s anatomy, the sciatic nerve can run above, below or sometimes it can actually run through the muscle. If the piriformis muscle becomes hypertonic or inflamed, it can inadvertently put pressure on the sciatic nerve causing sciatic nerve-type pain.
Figure 1 (Piriformis Syndrome)
Common Symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome:
– Dull ache in the buttock
– Pain down the back of the thigh, calf and foot (sciatica)
– Pain when walking up stairs or inclines
– Increased pain after prolonged sitting
– Reduced range of motion of the hip joint
All of this being said the good news is that, sciatic nerve pain caused by Piriformis Syndrome is very easy to treat with massage and acupuncture! By performing gentle strokes to the hips, we can relax the piriformis muscle to decrease the pressure on the sciatic nerve. If the nerve is inflamed, these gentle strokes will help clear out the inflammation through the lymphatic system.
Acupuncture can help treat this pain by needling points in the hips locally and distally. Acupuncture has therapeutic properties of decreasing pain and inflammation by increasing Blood and Qi (energy) flow through the area. By doing this, we are assisting the body in healing the tissues more quickly and efficiently. Your massage therapist and acupuncturist will be able to provide you will home care exercises to help with additional relief and pain prevention.
Not only can a hypertonic piriformis muscle be a cause of sciatic pain, but a weak or loosened muscle can as well. During the last first trimester/early second trimester, a pregnant womans’ body starts to produce the hormone relaxin which helps the body allow for pelvic widening (along with rib expansion and increased uterine ligament elasticity). Although this is naturally supposed to help the body adapt and prepare, it can still cause pain. Pregnancy sciatica is caused by the loosening of the pelvic girdle, especially the sacroiliac joint (SI joint). As a result of this softening the SI joint becomes unstable and can irritate the sciatic nerve. By repositioning the pelvis, particularly the sacrum and ilium, the sciatica disappears.
Here at Whole Family Health our Massage Therapist has advanced training in prenatal massage, and therefore has the knowledge and understanding of the anatomy and physiology of a pregnant woman; and can therefor safely and effectively help you with the discomfort experienced from the sciatic nerve.