Sciatic Pain During Pregnancy

I am five months pregnant with my first baby, and since the second month I have had what feels like a pinched nerve in my tailbone. It doesn't seem like it could be related to overcompensating for a burgeoning belly by leaning backwards -- this pain started before I ever gained any weight. Frequent changes of position help a bit, but I have a three-hour commute on a crowded train every day and work at a computer. Sometimes it's all I can do to walk without shooting pain down my sciatic nerve in the back of my legs. Can I try to ease my suffering with a couple of Tylenol when the pain gets bad?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

Tylenol is generally considered safe to use during pregnancy. It should help to relieve symptoms of sciatica. And, of course, you will want to take as few as possible.

Try to read Elizabeth Noble's book, "Essential Exercises for the Childbearing Year." She is a physical therapist and truly knows about the pregnant body.

It is not just the weight and the shift in the center of gravity that produce back pain in pregnancy. Progesterone softens ligaments and supporting structures in the pelvis. Try to always bend or lift with a "neutral spine." That means shoulders back and accentuate the curve in the lower back.

Pelvic rocking is an excellent exercise and can be done sitting, standing or lying down. Just rock your pelvis back and forth. If you are on the floor, push the small of your back into the floor and then relax. Do a Kegel at the same time. Hold for five seconds and relax. As long as your back is directed toward the floor and the lumbar curve is pushed into the floor, you can do most exercises safely.

Simple head lifts while exhaling (keeping you knees bent) are an excellent abdominal exercise. Walking with good shoes is also therapeutic.

At some point in your life, you may have broken your tailbone or even mildly herniated a disc in your lower back. If it is still a problem after delivery, you may want to consider having an MRI.

Sturdy foam support cushions for the lower back are made for sitting in cars or chairs at the office. They fit into the lumbar area and would be ideal if you could take one on your commute. They cost about $15 and can be purchased through any physical therapy office or some auto stores.

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