Exercises to Relax and Relieve Pain
While there is no real cure for sciatica, Horshinski says there are several exercises that may help offer temporary relief to women suffering from sciatica pain, including exercises that stretch the piraformis (the muscle in the buttocks that the sciatica nerve travels through), the hamstring, and calf muscles. Called "Williams Exercises," these stretches are specifically designed to take pressure off the sciatic muscle and loosen painful spasms. Here are a few examples:
- On your hands and knees, drop your head and roll your back upwards one vertebrae at a time while tightening your tummy and bottom. Your back should be in a humped position. Then, one vertebrae at a time, drop the spine back into place while bringing your head into a position parallel with your backbone. Repeat this movement several times. When performed a few times a day, this exercise should bring relaxation and relief from lower back pain and tension.
- Slow squats done ten times a day are great for stretching and toning the upper legs. Be sure to balance yourself by holding onto a countertop or chair.
- The pelvic tilt not only helps to relieve lower back pain, it also prepares a pregnant woman for giving birth. There are two ways to do this exercise. Standing, for women who are at least four months pregnant, or lying down.
- Lie on your back with one knee bent and the opposite ankle resting on the bent knee. Then lift the bent knee off the floor, and slowly stretch the opposite knee away from the resting ankle. Switch legs and repeat. This releases tension in the buttocks muscle.
Standing: Stand with your spine against a wall and press the small of your back against the wall. Then relax.
Lying down: Lie with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. While exhaling, press against the hollow of your back until your spine touches the floor. Then inhale and relax your position. Repeat as many times as you are comfortable.
In addition to these exercises, swimming and walking are excellent ways to relieve pressure on your lower back, bottom, and upper thighs. Just be sure to walk on level ground and avoid inclines.
Of course, exercise in moderation and see your doctor if the pain becomes worse.
For pregnant women in their second and third trimester, prenatal massage from 10 minutes to one hour once or twice a week can help relieve stress on weight-bearing joints and assist in maintaining proper posture, which may improve symptoms of sciatica. Just make sure the massage therapist you choose is certified and registered with your state.
The Silver Lining
While it's true that many aspects of one's first pregnancy can be expected to pop up again in subsequent pregnancies, thankfully, pregnancy-related sciatica is instance specific. Since it is caused by the position of the baby at any given time, having sciatica in one pregnancy is not an indication that you will experience it in every pregnancy.
So (knock on wood!), as I enter into the sixth month of my second pregnancy, I write this bloated and blotchy, overweight, puffy, irritable, and winded, but with no signs of the sciatica pain that I experienced in my first pregnancy.
But let's face it, pain in the rear or not, at the end of the pregnancy rainbow, a sweet little baby is the pot of gold!