I often meet Mamas to be suffering from pregnancy sciatica pain. With the hormonal and postural changes that occur to the body it often feels a lot more intense than if you are not pregnant. Over the years I've developed some tips and exercises which I've practised on my private and small group class clients to help relieve their pain.
Start with increasing your daily activity and improving your posture as sitting and poor posture can lead to sciatica. Aim to walk for 20 minutes a day for 2 weeks then increase to 25 – 30 minutes. Walk ‘tall’, arms extended and practise drawing your navel in towards your spine. Strike with your heel first then roll onto the ball of your foot.
Swimming is also a good alternative going for 2-3 times a week for 30-40 minutes to improve stamina and endurance too ready for the birth! Aim for a faster pace for one length and slower pace for the next. During pregnancy it's important to keep your exertion levels to where you can 'hold a conversation'. Try front crawl as it works more muscles.
Appropriate core exercises to help strengthen and support your back and protect your spine will help place less stress on other muscles which may compensate for a weak core.
I'm a big fan of foam rolling, which is safe during pregnancy (as long as you are in a comfortable position) as the technique of 'self massage' helps relieve tension and tightness in the backs of the legs to help relieve the pain (see my exercise: foam rolling for the backs of the thighs).
Exercises to release Sciatica
These are my top exercises, stretches and releases for helping relieve Sciatica pain.
# 1: Hamstring stretch
- Sit on a block, towel or exercise mat and stretch one leg out in front of you with your knee straight and bend the other leg slightly to the side ensuring you feel comfortable.
- Place your hands behind your bottom to help shift your weight onto your seated bones and lift and lengthen your spine.
- You should feel a stretch down the back of the thigh of the leg which is straight.
- Hold for 8-10 seconds continuing to breath.
- Then point the toe and release and circle the ankle one direction 3-5 times then in the other direction 3-5 times.
- Repeat this whole stretch and ankle rotation on the other leg.
# 2: Pelvic tilts (without a fitness ball)
- Do these on all fours starting hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Keep your lower back flat and shoulders away from ears.
- Breathe in and as you breathe out, tilt your hips and pelvis as if rounding off
your lower back and drawing your pubic bone up towards your navel.
- Relax breath in and return to neutral.
Repeat 5-8 times.
#3: Pelvis rolls on a fitness Ball
- Sit on a large fitness ball so your hips are higher than your knees and hands rest on the ball.
- Roll your pelvis so you are drawing circles with your tailbone or like you are stirring a pot!
- Aim for big rolls and inhale as you roll your pelvis to the back and exhale as you roll forwards to the front.
- For an extra bonus of activating your tummy muscles too, draw your belly button in as you roll forwards as if you are hugging your bump.
Do about 20 rolls.
#4: Foam roll for the back of the thighs
- Take a foam roller that is 36 inches in length x 6 inches in diameter.
- Sit on an exercise mat or carpeted area and place the roller under the back of your thighs.
- Place your hands behind you resting on your fingertips which should pointing in towards your body.
- Lift your bottom off the floor by pressing into your hands.
- Draw in your belly button, keep pressing into your hands and begin to push the roller up and down the hamstrings, with a rocking motion, going from just under the bottom (very top of the backs of the thighs) to just above the knee.
- Exhale as you roll up and inhale as you roll down.
Repeat 10 times, daily.
Seeing a musculoskeletal women’s health physiotherapist to assess your posture, biomechanics and any muscular imbalances to find the root problem of the Sciatica will also help along side the exercises. This kind of assessment may also be effective for avoiding further issues in the long term.