As a rule, women who have suffered previous lower back problems are no more susceptible to sciatica during pregnancy than anyone else, and this should reassure all would-be mothers who are fearful.
The following are 7 of the best stretching exercises for sciatica during pregnancy.
With sciatica, the pain may extend to the buttock only, in patches down the leg, the heel, under the foot, or all the way through the leg. Sciatica during pregnancy is either caused by inflammation of the lower lumbar facet joints, or by the growing baby lying heavily upon the sciatic nerve inside the pelvis. Of the two, the latter is the least problematic. Pregnancy sciatica however, is a little more serious than simple lower back pain during pregnancy.
Sciatic pain in the leg can vary in both intensity and distribution. Sometimes it's nothing more than a dull ache in the buttock, or a nagging drag in the calf that feels like a sprained muscle. At other times, it feels like a throbbing ache right through the leg, sometimes associated with pins and needles and numbness of the foot or heel. Broadly speaking, the more severe the pain and the greater the distance the pain is felt down the leg, the more serious the problem in the back. You may like to read more in depth here about the causes of lower back pain in pregnancy.
7 OF THE BEST STRETCHING EXERCISES FOR SCIATICA DURING PREGNANCY ARE:
1. Child Pose
2. Knees Rocking
3. Table Stretch
4. Preparatory Nerve Root Stretch
5. Curl Downs
6. Advanced Sciatic Nerve Stretches
7. The BackBlock Routine
The first 4 ways of stretching for sciatic during are more suitable for severe sciatic pain during pregnancy. The last 3 sciatica stretching exercises are more suitable after delivery, or when the sciatica during pregnancy is less severe.
Though not specifically about sciatica in pregnancy, this downloadable sciatica video shows Sarah talking about the different types of sciatica and how you do your own treatment exactly right.
Stretching Exercise for Sciatica During Pregnancy No 1. The Child Pose
The most important principle in getting relief from acute sciatica during pregnancy is to open the spine out the other way, taking the lower back out of its accentuated over-ached posture caused by the weight of the baby pulling the lumbar spine forward. The simplest and easiest way of doing this is to spend some minutes several times a day in the 'child pose'. Always make sure your big toes are touching as your thighs are splayed apart, so you can nestle your over-sized belly down between your thighs and relax as low as possible, as you head goes towards the floor.
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Try to roost your bottom as firmly as you can on your heels with your lower back as rounded as possible. This achieves a gentle traction through your lower spinal segments. You may feel a distinct tightness through your lower back as the tension of the muscles resists letting go. Sometimes the muscles let go with clonks and clicks like a ratchet; there's no need to be alarmed at this. Remain there for 2 minutes if you can.
As your back slowly relaxes and pays out as the muscles let go, you can take your arms forward along the floor over your head to increase the stretch through the lower back and the side rib cage. Note, this exercise becomes less easy as your tummy enlarges.
You should stop if you feel any undue pressure on the pelvic floor and seek the advice of your obstetrician.
Stretching Exercise for Sciatica During Pregnancy No 2. Knees Rocking
Sarah Key uses the gentle 'knees rocking' exercise frequently in her back pain relief programs. Using the thighs as levers, this gentle oscillatory rocking exercise works like a mechanical pump. By alternately rounding and relaxing the lower back it slides open the opposing facet joint surfaces in the lower back as the back of the spinal segments are gapped open. The gentle repetitive rocking, slightly faster than one cycle per second, disperses the inflammation as it eases the discomfort of the bone-to-bone contact. It also relieves the engorgement of fluid trapped around the facet joints, with the reducing pressure making the joints less likely to refer pain down through the leg.
The 'knees rocking' and the 'child pose' exercises are better used in cases of more severe sciatica in pregnancy. Towards the full term of your pregnancy, it may be necessary to get down on the floor and do these back pain relief exercises several times a day, alternating between the two. You cannot afford to hurry and be too gung-ho with the 'knees rocking'; it should have a gentle lulling rhythm, like rocking a baby to sleep in a pram - and it should almost send you to sleep too! Ideally, you might download the video showing Sarah Key doing these back pain relieving exercises. That way, you will be more likely to get the effort, rate and rhythm right, as you do it along with her. Knowing you are doing it right makes all the difference.
Stretching Exercise for Sciatica During Pregnancy No 3. The Table Stretch
The 'table stretch' exerts slight traction on the sciatic nerve and drops the baby away from the front of the spine. It is a great relief at the burdensome later stages of pregnancy, although it should not be attempted when the leg pain is too angry. It involves flattening your lower lumbar curve by pulling the tummy (as much as you can!) and trying to make the whole spine as long as possible.
To add to the sense of spinal lengthening, push first one sitting bone then the other away through the flesh of your bottom, like shining a car headlight out through the seat of your pants. This action involves a slight sideways bending elongation of the trunk, first down one side of your body then the other, in a crescent-shaped stretch through the armpit and the side ribs to your hip bone. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and repeat through the day whenever you feel the need.
The 'table stretch' is an exercise you get to when the sciatic pain has started to ease somewhat. It incorporates a gentle pull (traction) on the nerve roots running right through from the spine to your leg, so it must not be done too early in the sciatica pain relief program. When you start to get a sense of your clenched and aching back actually needing and enjoying the stretch, it is the right time to use it. it.
Stretching Exercise for Sciatica During Pregnancy No 4. The Preparatory Nerve Root Stretch
This exercise is essential to get right. It involves releasing the nerve gently by coaxing it free from its inflamed facet joint. You must push into the pain to a degree - but here's the rub - not too much! You need to nudge into the pain to bring it on but only to the point the tension feels pleasing. Nothing more.
To do the exercise you lie on your back on the floor and holding your bad leg behind the thigh bunch your knee to your chest. In this position, try to straighten your leg slowly by pushing your heel towards the ceiling. The tension in the sciatic nerve takes up as you push the heel up and you will notice the painful pull in your leg becomes more marked as the knee straightens. Hold the leg securely and don't panic. Hold the heel as high as you can for 5 seconds and then release, repeating twice. You can do the other leg too, and you will notice it goes higher and it pain-free.
Stretching Exercise for Sciatica During Pregnancy No 5. Curl Downs
Curl downs and any sort of bending still suffer from a bad name in back treating circles; the legacy of a medical era that focused upon discs slipping and other simplistic notions of back pain. This has particularly unfortunate consequences for young mothers who then find it practically impossible to lift their baby properly.
You will see multifarious discourses on bending in this website. You will read that bending normally 'gives the discs a drink' and is a necessary part of keeping a back healthy. During pregnancy bending is particularly important; the natural to-and-fro of bending disengaging the facet joints from the over-arched pregnancy posture that has contributed to the sciatica during pregnancy.
If you haven't been bending properly for a while the deep spinal muscles that control segmental stability will be weak and you will feel insecure. So, you must start carefully; if necessary using your hands to 'walk down your legs'. Prepare for going down by first pulling your tummy in hard to act as a strong retaining wall at the front of the spine and gently lowering yourself down.
On starting to bend, you may feel a pulling in your leg as the nerve is tugged from the adhesions in your back. As you come up to standing again, try to get an 'unfurling' action by tightening your bottom, pulling your tummy in hard and bringing your head up last. Repeat once more only. If you do more your leg will be more sore the next day.
You need to be careful starting curl downs. You must only commence when the leg pain is almost non-existent. Be prepared that your sciatica may temporarily increase for a day or so after starting this exercise.
Stretching Exercise For Sciatica During Pregnancy No 6. Advanced Sciatic Nerve Stretches
This exercise is for final stages of rehabilitation with the combined rotation and tension through the leg pulling the nerve free from between the vertebrae.
In a healthy back, the spinal nerves should be stretchy and free to pull clear like strands of cooked spaghetti. Where there has been longstanding low-grade inflammation of a facet joint, the nerve becomes tethered by adhesions, as if the strand of spaghetti is stuck to the pot. Nerve root tethering like this is a common cause of sciatica.
For a sciatic pain in the right leg, you will need a belt, or rope, around the instep of the right foot. With your right arm out from your side on the floor for counterbalance and holding the belt with your left hand, bring the right knee up bent. As you take it across your chest out to the left on the floor, let your lower spine twist fully. At maximum twist then slowly try to straighten out the leg at the knee (it will often be very difficult to get it anywhere near straight) at the same time, pulling the straight leg upwards towards your face. With your leg as straight and high as possible, try to bounce it minutely for 30 seconds. Repeat once. It will be quite painful but try not to panic. Breathe freely and don't fight your own body. Do not do this exercise more than twice a week.
Sciatica Stretching Exercise No 7. The BackBlock Regime
The BackBlock is really one of the best ways of stretching for sciatica during pregnancy. There is much information in this website about the BackBlock and How to Use It. It is the quickest and easiest way to decompress the spine and gain sciatica relief, although the effects may not be immediate. The results are slower because the nerve is usually tethered and takes several weeks of un-hurried, coaxing - and mopping up with appeasing exercises - to work it free.
All the above back exercises are in this book
"She, Sarah Key, one of the best in her field, is well worth reading. Most important is the clarity of her explanations"
Reader's review on Amazon.com, February 2015
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