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I've shooting pain in my backside which runs down my leg...help!

pain Sep 05, 2016

Ahhh you wake up in the morning after an interrupted night's sleep to find that you can barely move. You have shooting pain in your backside (one side in particular) and when you attempt to put weight on your leg, you shudder. Anything sound familiar Mama-To-Be? Sciatica...or more specifically, sciatic pain.

'Sciatica' is pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. This causes inflammation, pain and often some numbness in the affected leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body.* Pregnancy doesn't 'cause' it but it can make it worse.

In pregnancy, as baby grows and we gain weight, the back is put under more pressure, the uterus often presses down onto the nerve, the posture is affected, and we have more fluid in the body. All combined can lead to a compression of the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the entire body, and inflammation, pain and numbness results. 

The exact cause of sciatic pain can actually be quite tricky to isolate. It is therefore important to get professional diagnosis from a physiotherapist or osteopath as there can be disc issues, alignment problems in the pelvis, or something else. 

So what can you do to manage the pain? 

During a flare-up

  • Rest for a day and spend limited time on your feet - but as you'll see below, you need to be active to prevent sciatic pain, so balance wisely! If the pain is happening on the left side, then rest on your right side to reduce pressure.
  • Cold packs - like an ice pack or just a bag of frozen veg works equally as well. Place this where the pain is most acute for about 15 minutes, several times a day. 
  • Once the immediate pain has subsided after a couple of days, use Heat packs on the site. You can buy heat patches from the pharmacy, or a warm hot water bottle is also lovely. 
  • It's unlikely you will be able to move around much when you are in pain - if possible, try to do a few cat/cow yoga poses to gently stretch out the back, and rest in childs pose in between. These will gently help to stretch the back and work to counteract the overarching in the low back which is extremely common in pregnancy.

When you aren't in any pain and want to prevent sciatic pain from returning or occurring altogether, here is some advice to follow which will keep your body healthy and strong:

  • Yoga - increasing the flexibility in the spine and pelvis, gently stretching the back and hips to increase space down the length of the back.  Also stretching out the hamstrings will help.

Cat / Cow


Downward facing dog (don't do this if you have high blood pressure)


An amended version of the Cow's Face pose to stretch outer hips - pictures thanks to Yoga International


Low lunge


King Pigeon pose - this is an amazing pose for releasing the low back, outer hips and buttocks and feels amazing. However, it's tricky to get into, so I'd only advise if you have done it before in your yoga class with your teacher


  • Exercise - try to keep active all during your pregnancy. This will keep your body strong and prevent putting on too much weight, thus putting the body under unnecessary pressure. 
  • Swimming - this can be wonderful for strengthening the core and back during pregnancy, and that feeling of lightness in the pool is pretty awesome when sometimes you feel like a whale on land!
  • Maintaining proper posture - become aware of how you are sitting and standing daily. You would be surprised just by standing and sitting properly how much you can positively influence pain in the back. In order to prevent the over-arching in the low back, which is extremely common during pregnancy. Try to switch on your core muscles by gently drawing in your low belly - feeling almost as if you are giving baby a little hug! 


  • Physio belt - if you feel the weight of your bump is adding to back pain or pelvic pain, you could talk to your physio to see if the occasional use of a supportive belt could be an option for you.
  • Gain weight slowly, to avoid placing your back under additional pressure.  

If you know someone who is pregnant and might benefit from this article, please share it using the tabs on the left. For more, visit https://www.nurturemamas.com/

* www.mayoclinic.org

Helen Plass works with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, Birth, and Motherhood. She has built a successful business in Dublin, Ireland, as a Yoga Instructor, specializing in Pre- & Post-natal health and fitness, Active Birthing workshops, Baby Massage and Mama & Baby Yoga classes. She is known for her very practical & non-judgmental approach to pregnancy and the crazy times of motherhood! Helen has trained in the UK and Ireland and is mega proud of coming first in her Yoga Teacher Training (she’s a bit of a swot) at the gorgeous Samadhi Studios in Dublin. She’s a proud wife, mama to two energetic little boys, former corporate marketing professional, keen runner and lover of all things related to sport…and is an avid supporter of Irish Rugby.

When she’s not becoming all teary and emotional with messages from her clients about their gorgeous births, you can find her walking along the rocks and beach with her boys, cheering on the sidelines of football and rugby pitches, experimenting with essential oils, baking and preparing meals for the non-stop eating men in her life…and in general just trying to keep it all together. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com, and if you are in Ireland, her local business www.mumandbaby.ie







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