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We have had a quite a few patients lately come to our office telling us they need help with their ‘sciatic pain.’ Many of them mention that their OB/GYNs referred them for sciatic treatment.  After performing a thorough history and examination we find almost universally that the pain they are experiencing is NOT sciatic nerve related or ‘sciatica’, but Sacroiliac joint pain referral. What’s the difference? Listen up…

Sciatic pain is named for the sciatic nerve which includes multiple levels of nerve roots that exit through the lumbar spine. When irritated this nerve in responsible for pain that will go past the knee and often into the lower leg, foot, toes, and may even include pain in the genital region. “Sciatic” is such a common term that people who are experiencing any pain in the buttock and upper leg region are frequently told or conclude that they have “Sciatic Pain.” ‘This is actually quite rare during pregnancy. When pregnancy is involved the conclusion is that the baby is ‘sitting on the sciatic nerve.’ This is not a scientific conclusion.

Sacroiliac (or SI) pain is much, much more common. We know that the pregnant body produces a hormone called Relaxin. This hormone’s job is to relax and loosen ligaments and some tendons in the pelvis (and the entire body) to begin to prepare the body to deliver. Because of this the SI joint can loose some of its stability and begin to have aberrant (or incorrect) motion on either side of the sacrum. When stresses are added- sitting, standing, or walking too long or with incorrect posture- this joint will become a pain generator. The way that it presents is a deep ache at the SI joint location (right where you can feel the bony bump to either side of the spine just above the belt line) with a achy referral into the buttock and upper back thigh or leg. This pain does NOT pass the knee. It can be described as shooting, but usually this just means the pain begins at one location and travels down the leg. When stresses are reduced, muscles stretched ans strengthened, and joints returned to proper motion the pain will be reduced significantly, if not altogether disappear.

Why is it important to know the difference between these two conditions?  SI joint pain referral is very common and can be resolved with simple, specific treatment. Sciatic pain is often of a more serious nature and usually doesn’t just appear during pregnancy, but will have been a factor at some point before the pregnancy. Of those pregnant patients who presented to our office with low back and leg pain over 95% have been due to the SI joint, not sciatic nerve irritation.

If you search “leg pain during pregnancy” you will find many articles stating that sciatic pain is the cause of this pain. Your own physician may even tell you this.  This is generally not correct. But after reading this article you will know exactly what you can do to alleviate the pain.  If you live in salt lake county or utah county just call or text us at 801-810-4144 to schedule an appointment OR ask for a referral to a local chiropractor who has experience with the Webster Technique during pregnancy.