Suffering from sciatica during pregnancy? We can help.
As doulas and fellow mothers, we know firsthand some of the aches and pains that can come along with pregnancy. From morning sickness and fatigue, to heartburn and hemorrhoids, we’ve seen it all. One of the most common complaints we’ve seen during pregnancy tends to be back pain and sciatica.
During the last few months of pregnancy, as the baby grows more rapidly and the pelvic joints begin to relax to accommodate birth, expectant mothers may experience back pain and sciatica that can range from a minor discomfort to an exhausting, crippling condition. Acupuncture can be a useful tool throughout all stages of pre-partum, pregnancy, and post-partum, and is particularly helpful in providing relief from stubborn back pain.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy, is described as pain originating in the spine and radiating down the sciatic nerve, which runs down the back of the leg. You may experience tingling or burning sensations, numbness, or weakness, anywhere from your lower back to your buttocks, hips, and lower legs.
This may be caused by the weight of the pregnant uterus, altered posture to compensate for altered shape, fatigue leading to poor posture, or other factors such as softened, relaxed pelvic ligaments due to the presence of progesterone and relaxin in the body. The pain is often worse at night, which can lead to sleeplessness, and in turn, fatigue, anxiety, and more. There is little Western medicine can offer in the way of relief aside from back exercises and advice about proper posture. This is where Chinese medicine comes in.
Sciatica from a Chinese medicine view
From the Chinese medicine standpoint, it is most important to determine the root cause of the pain. First, the acupuncturist needs to determine whether the pain is acute or chronic. Pregnancy sciatica may be due to stagnation, or “stoppage”, of Blood and Qi (energy). Severe pain that gets worse with rest but improves with light exercise and is tender to the touch is usually related to the stagnation of Blood and Qi.
Another possible cause of pregnancy sciatica can be deficiency of the vital substances such as Qi, Blood, Yin, or Yang, which can be caused by fatigue and poor rest, and is typically felt more upon exertion and later in the day. Wind-Cold-Damp-Bi obstruction is another possible culprit for sciatica, and may be indicated by a large area of pain, or even feeling cold to the touch. The pain is exacerbated by poor diet or exposure to cold and damp weather. Strain can weaken the back muscles, and exposure to cold can wear on the immune system, making the mother more susceptible to ailment and injury.
Acupuncture for sciatica
Acupuncture is one of the few safe and effective treatments for pregnancy sciatica. By identifying the blocked meridian, or energy channel, acupuncture can help Qi flow, move stuck Blood, nourish Yin and Yang, and ultimately resolve the condition. In addition to acupuncture, acupuncturists have some other tricks up their sleeve that can be used in conjunction to further relieve pain. Tui Na, or Chinese medical massage, not only feels great in the moment, but can work to loosen up stagnation and get the Qi and Blood flowing again.
In the case of sciatica due to Wind-Cold-Damp-Bi obstruction, moxibustion is a wonderful tool to help warm the area. Moxibustion, also known as moxa, is made from the mugwort herb, which is dried and compressed, and then burned near the area of pain. This is another modality that is not only enjoyable in the moment, but works to clear cold and damp from the channels and ultimately diminish pain.
We know how frustrating and disheartening it can be to suffer with pain during your pregnancy. Chinese medicine can be the key to helping you feel better while you prepare to welcome your little one into the world. Contact us with any questions or to book an appointment and start getting relief today.