Sciatica affects many pregnant women. The belly increases in size as the baby grows and when the baby’s head or the uterus puts pressure against the sciatic nerve, a main nerve that travels from the backbone through the hips and down the legs, the full blown symptoms of sciatica are manifested. It feels like a constant pulsating dull ache commencing at the lower back, moving through the hips to the legs. Pregnant women with sciatica feel acute discomfort until the baby’s position shifts and the pressure on the sciatic nerve is relieved.
Exercises prove to be the leading aid for the treatment of sciatica in pregnant women, by strengthening the muscles of the abdomen, the lower back and the hips, the set of core muscles that support the additional weight of the baby which stresses the middle body considerably. Simple exercises that strengthen these muscles improve posture. As pregnancy progresses, the spine arches to accommodate the growing belly, making it difficult to stand properly, aggravating sciatica. Exercises realign the body and relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve resulting in considerable relief.
Some of the suggested light exercises that relieve sciatica during pregnancy include
- light aerobics
Cycling, using an ‘exercycle’ is a useful option but could be dangerous if climbing and balancing is a problem. One must keep in mind that the exercises being performed should improve posture and free movement of the muscles of the abdomen, lower back and hips, otherwise referred to as the core muscles. These exercises should not be exhausting and 3 to 4 workouts of 15 to 20 minutes should be sufficient to improve circulation and probably relieve sciatic pain.
Some specific exercises to relieve sciatica pain are described below:
- For hip flexibility: One should sit in a chair with a straight back, shoulders relaxed and head facing forward. Placing the left ankle on the right knee the person should slowly lean forward and hold for a count of 30;then sit back and repeat for the other side.
- For the hamstrings (large muscles at the back of the thigh): One should stand with feet placed 2 feet apart, facing forward; then the person should bend the left foot while lifting the right foot onto the heel feeling the stretch along the back of the leg. This position should be held for a count of 5 and then released. This should be continued with 5 stretches on each leg. Holding on to a counter or sturdy chair focus on the whole leg. The person shouldcontinue by doing 20 squats, concentrating on good posture, thencontinue further by sitting on the floor with the back against a wall and feet together matching toes and heels and pushing to bring the legs as close to the floor as possible.
It is always advisable to consult a doctor prior to taking up this exercise plan. In addition if the exercises cause further pain, dizziness or contractions one should consult the doctor immediately.
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