Pregnancy is a beautiful time to get to know your body as you prepare to bring new life into the world. But, with that joy and happiness can come some challenges for many women, such as sciatica pain and hip pain from pregnancy.
Whether it is your first or third pregnancy, there’s no doubt that you will experience some new changes in your body. Some of these changes will be exciting, especially if it is your first baby. But other changes, like sciatica nerve pain or hip pain during pregnancy, can distract from the experience.
Hip pain and sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy are common symptoms during your third trimester. The symptoms are generally felt within a month or so of your due date. However, depending on your underlying health condition and body shape, low back and hip pain in pregnancy can occur earlier.
You may also feel hip pain from different movements during the day or from sleeping on your side during pregnancy. Each pregnancy is unique, so it’s important to work with a professional to identify the pain you’re feeling, understand its potential causes, and seek natural remedies.
In the moment, it might feel like there’s nothing you can do about these aches and pains - or that they’re just a part of becoming a mother. But they don’t have to be. There are ways that you can relieve and reduce your low back and hip pain during pregnancy. Seriously!
So, how do you ease hip pain from pregnancy? First, let’s examine what’s happening in your body to create back or hip pain in pregnancy - and then, I’ll give you some tools to relieve it.
Why is hip pain during pregnancy so common?
A woman’s body does some pretty amazing things during pregnancy to provide for their new baby’s arrival in the world. One of those things is the change in connective tissue to allow more flexibility in the pelvic region.
As you approach your due date, joints and ligaments in your abdomen and around your pelvis will begin to loosen. This is because your body starts to release hormones, including relaxin. These hormones help your body to become flexible enough to accommodate a growing baby - and for the birth itself.
If your body didn’t adapt like this, the baby’s movement through the birth canal would be much more difficult. But hormones aren’t the only thing that change.
As you know, with a baby in your belly, your weight changes too. The additional weight of the baby in an isolated area of your body adds excess pressure to your hips, muscles, and lower back. This change in weight distribution can also change your posture when pregnant.
Both your posture and the overall weight carried in your abdomen influence the strain on your hips while you’re performing even normal, day-to-day tasks. As a result, your muscles may try to overcompensate and become strained as well. This extra strain on your pelvis can cause hip pain during pregnancy, as well as other unwanted symptoms.
What causes sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy?
With all the changes happening in your pelvic region - and depending on where your baby sits inside of you - lower back pain is common during pregnancy. As your hips shift with hormone changes, and your baby’s weight increases, extra pressure is often applied to your sciatic nerve.
Your sciatic nerves run from your lower back to your feet. Sciatic nerve pain in pregnancy (sciatica) occurs due to the enlargement of your uterus as the baby grows. Sciatica puts pressure on the nerves, causing pain, numbness, or tingling sensations in the lower back, hips, buttocks, or thighs. People often report a tingling sensation or pain down one side of their body or down one leg.
Many pregnant women experience sciatica, but the severity and stages in which it presents will vary.
As your pregnancy progresses, and your belly and breasts grow, your center of gravity shifts forward. This can put extra weight on different areas of your pelvis and stretch your lordotic curve. As you get closer to your due date, you may notice that sciatica pain decreases or changes. This is usually because the baby is shifting position to prepare for birth.
Although sciatica and hip pain in pregnancy are common, you should still notify your doctor that it is occurring. Sciatica can be caused by things other than pregnancy and should be addressed. There are also some options that may help soothe the pain you are feeling and reduce sciatica symptoms.
How to reduce sciatica and hip pain during pregnancy
All of the bodily changes during pregnancy can add stress to your bones and nerves, but they can also cause many of your pelvic muscles to work overtime. Since your body is literally changing its anatomy to give birth, muscles, bones, and joints are enduring more stress.
Large muscles like your iliopsoas (also known as your hip flexors), which are in charge of basic leg movement and core stabilization, often take the brunt of the damage.
Your hip flexor muscles may begin to play tug of war with your piriformis muscle. This muscle is located in the buttock region. Irritation of the piriformis muscle is also directly related to sciatic nerve pain in pregnancy.
Some hip flexor stretches can loosen your hip area, but when your hip is already becoming loose, flexibility often isn’t the leading cause of your hip pain in pregnancy. While stretching the glutes and your piriformis muscle can still provide relief from sciatic pain during pregnancy, the relief is often short-term.
Stretching alone will only get you so far. And overstretching can be more damaging.
Plus, stretching can become increasingly difficult as your baby bump grows bigger. So, a combination of exercise, stretching, and targeted muscle release is ideal in treating hip pain from pregnancy.
Five stretches to relieve hip and back pain during pregnancy
Although you may be limited for movement as you approach your due date, there are still some stretches you can do to keep your sciatica and hip pain during pregnancy to a minimum.
A few tips before you start stretching include warming up your muscles a bit, being careful not to bounce, and taking it easy.
Listen to your body, and if it hurts, always stop.
Go for a short walk before you stretch to get your blood moving in your muscles first.
The hormone I mentioned earlier, relaxin, is already loosening your ligaments, so you may notice that you’re more flexible than you’ve been before. This does not mean that you should push it. Because of your pelvis’s added flexibility, it is easy to overdo a stretch and injure your body.
Many of the best stretches to do during pregnancy come from practicing yoga. If you can, consider attending some prenatal yoga classes in your area. This will give you a chance to learn from a professional, and ensure that the body positions are safe during pregnancy.
Here are my top five yoga poses to help relieve hip pain from pregnancy:
1. Modified child’s pose
You may be able to fully perform child’s pose early in the pregnancy, but as the third trimester rolls around, your belly may be too big. Having an exercise ball or a chair in front of you can help.
Kneel in front of the ball. Rest your hands on the ball in front of you, and roll it forward until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Be careful not to roll too fast or too far. You are seeking a gentle stretch that should feel immediately good. If it is uncomfortable, try rolling back a bit toward your body.
2. Modified camel pose
Camel pose can be a great chest opener, but it can also stretch your lower back. Because of the added weight in your belly, you may want a blanket, or a yoga mat folded up on the floor to kneel on as you do this stretch.
Kneel with your legs about hip-width distance apart, your feet flexed behind you, and your toes on the ground. With your hands on your lower back, begin to lean backward, opening your chest. To avoid overstretching, keep your head and neck supported (don’t let your head fall back, you should be looking slightly up or at the ceiling).
If that is comfortable, you can begin to move your hands to your buttocks and down to your back thighs. This is often enough of a stretch for most women. But if you were an avid yogi before pregnancy, you can also reach your hands back to rest on your heels while looking up at the ceiling.
3. Half pigeon
Half pigeon is an excellent stretch for your piriformis muscle, which irritates your sciatic nerve if too tight. However, it can also be a good way to injure your muscles.
So, take this one slow. If it is too much, consider doing a different version of this, but on your back.
From kneeling, bring one knee forward and slightly out from your hip. Extend your back leg behind you, keep it straight, and point your toes. Balance yourself by keeping your hands down on the floor by your side.
Try to keep the front leg’s shin parallel to your hips as you do this. Once you feel your hips are balanced, you can sit deeper into the stretch and even lean slightly forward. Keep your hips square to the ground and keep a slight arch in your back.
If you have to sacrifice your form to lean forward, keep your torso upright and use yoga blocks on either side of your body for extra support. You will feel this stretch in the front of your hips, where your iliopsoas muscles are.
A classic hip-opening stretch, the butterfly can help with hip pain from pregnancy, and is easy to do in every trimester.
Sit with your back straight and legs straight in front of you. Grab one leg by your foot (you may need to bend your knee) and bring it in towards your groin until it is comfortable.
Do the same for the other side, but now bring your feet to touch. Bring your feet in as close as you can to your groin before feeling any tightness or discomfort - and hold.
If you don’t feel a stretch, you can lean slightly forward or even apply slight pressure to your thighs.
The final stretch for decreasing hip pain during pregnancy is the cat-cow stretch. To do this stretch, go to your hands and knees. Keep your knees hip-distance apart and your hands shoulder-distance apart.
Slowly drop your back to release your belly towards the floor while lifting your head up. Then reverse your motion to arch your back up, like a cat, and drop your head to the ground.
Perform this motion as many times as is comfortable, as often as you want.
Muscle release for sciatica pain during pregnancy
Stretching can be an effective and very beneficial practice during pregnancy. However, it often does not fully get rid of sciatica pain or hip pain from pregnancy.
Lower back stretches may relieve some pressure from the sciatica nerve, but as your iliopsoas and piriformis muscles play tug of war back and forth, pressure on the nerve will continue.
One of the best ways to relieve this pain is to use a muscle release ball. The Aletha Hip Flexor Release Ball is the right size and density to perform a full release of the piriformis muscle that is causing sciatica pain.
To do this, lay on your back and place the ball on the soft spot of your buttock next to your tailbone. This is the area the piriformis muscle is located. You can lay flat with your legs out, or you can pull one leg in and hold the knee for a deeper release.
Depending on your trimester, you may also be able to use this release ball on your iliopsoas muscles. However, to do this, you need to be able to lay on your stomach. It’s important to talk to your doctor before applying pressure to the front of your stomach. And it may not always be an option available to you.
The good news is that releasing the back of the hip will help the front of the hip. If one side is loosened, their tug of war with each other lightens up, and the iliopsoas will pull less as well.
With a combination of gentle stretching, exercise, and the use of muscle release tools such as a hip flexor release ball, you should be able to find relief from hip pain during pregnancy. After all, you want to enjoy this amazing time in your life!
If your hip pain from pregnancy persists, it could be worth contacting a medical professional or physical therapist for a more tailored hip pain relief treatment plan.
At the end of the day, hip pain during pregnancy isn’t something you just have to deal with. And, once you learn how to manage your pain, you can get back to focusing on the things that matter - like bringing your beautiful little one into the world.
Frequently asked questions about sciatic nerve and hip pain during pregnancy
What causes sciatic nerve pain and hip pain during pregnancy?
The combination of hormonal, postural, and weight changes can shift your center of gravity to create extra pressure on the sciatic nerve while your hip flexors strain to stabilize your pelvis.
How can I relieve hip pain during pregnancy?
Lower back stretches may relieve some pressure from the sciatic nerve, while targeted pressure on gluteal muscles (specifically the piriformis), can be extremely effective. A mix of exercise, stretching, and targeted muscle release with a muscle release ball is ideal in treating hip pain from pregnancy.
The simple truth: adopting a daily ten-minute routine of gentle stretching and targeted muscle release can relieve pain and gift you an opportunity to enjoy your pregnancy.