I also sought out help from one of my favorite pre- and postnatal experts, Dr. Elliot Berlin of Berlin Wellness Group. He’s a chiropractor in the Los Angeles area that has saved me on many occasions. He actually has coined the phrase “Sciatica of Pregnancy,” which is when “the compression is in the buttocks, under the ever-tightening piriformis.” The pain centralizes in the bottom but never goes past the knee. He calls it “Sciatica of Pregnancy” because this pain often occurs in cases where there were no symptoms before pregnancy and now there is pain under the piriformis (ding, ding, ding — that was me). Berlin says stretches to gently loosen the piriformis are golden and can be enhanced with downward yoga poses to shift the baby’s position a bit. A nice warm bath with epsom salts and essential oils can help, too.
So besides using the Yoga Tune Up balls and getting adjusted and massaged at Berlin Wellness, I created a stretch series that I did religiously from 30 weeks on, even when my sciatica subsided. You can also do versions of these exercises on the floor as pictured with Kristin McGee, NYC celebrity yoga and Pilates trainer who also has an amazing prenatal yoga and Pilates DVD.
Because I was so far along when I developed my sciatica, I found the stretches to be more comfortable, and found more relief, elevated on a stretch bench due to how low I was carrying and the size of my bump (I’m about 36 weeks pregnant in these pictures). At home, I would do them standing next to my bed.
Elevated Pigeon Stretch
This was probably the most helpful of all the stretches as it really “hit the spot” for me; it helps open up the hips and stretches the glutes. Get as close to the table as you possibly can with your supporting leg. Lift the opposite leg up, your “table leg” on to the table and bend it at a 90 degree angle (You will feel the relief in this side.). Hinge forward as much as your body will allow. Exhale as you lower down towards your “table leg.”
Seated Double Pigeon
Elevated Hamstring Stretch
This exercise will help stretch your hamstrings, which may contribute to low back and hip discomfort as well. Remember stretching the muscles surrounding the piriformis and/or sciatic nerve may very well help relieve the area where you feel the most pain. From the Elevated Pigeon Stretch, you may need to back away from the table a bit. Extend the “table leg” out long. With your hands on either side of the leg, exhale and hinge forward over your leg, trying to straighten it as much as possible. Depending on the size of your bump, you may have to angle your “table leg” and turn out your supporting leg.
Side Stretch & Hip Opener
Again, this stretch does more than just provide relief to the designated area. It will help open up the hip, inner thigh and back. From the Elevated Hamstring Stretch, move your supporting leg back into the table. Allow your “table leg” to rotate and open from the hip. Keep the “table leg” arm on the table, and reach up and over with the opposite arm, making sure to keep your hips square and your chest as open as possible.
Remember, you may find that some of these stretches feel better than others, depending on where you feel the most pressure. More stretches and exercises like these can be found in my Expecting More prenatal workout DVDs and downloads, especially in Salutations.
Did you experience sciatica during pregnancy? I was lucky and didn’t, but I had other issues. —Erin