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Many patients come into our office on a regular basis telling us they need help with their “sciatic pain.” Their OB/GYNs often refer them for sciatic treatment. However, after performing a thorough history and examination, we find almost universally that the pain they are experiencing is NOT sciatic nerve related, or “sciatica.”  It is actually Sacroiliac joint pain referral, otherwise referred to as SI pain. What’s the difference? Listen up!

What is Sciatica?

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 is 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 regions are frequently told or conclude that they have “Sciatic pain.” But the reality is that sciatic pain is actually quite rare during pregnancy. When pregnancy is involved, often people mistakenly conclude that that the baby is sitting on the sciatic nerve. This is not a scientific conclusion.

What is SI Pain?

Sacroiliac (or SI) pain is much more common. In order to prepare for what the body will accomplish during childbirth, 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 an 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 and strengthened, and joints returned to proper motion, the pain will be reduced significantly, if not altogether disappear.

Sciatica Versus SI Pain

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.

Confusion Surrounds Sciatica and Pregnancy

Unfortunately, there is plenty of confusion on this topic, for a variety of reasons. In fact, if you search “leg pain during pregnancy” you will find many articles stating that sciatic pain is the cause of this pain, rather than the SI joint. Your own physician may even tell you this. This is generally not correct. Thankfully, after reading this article, you now know exactly what you can do to alleviate the pain! 

Call Us for HALF OFF Your Prenatal Adjustment Today!

If you live in Salt Lake County or Utah County, 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.