By Jennifer Abbotts, RMT
Pregnancy can be a pain in the buttocks.
One of the most common issues that pregnant clients come to see me for is hip and sciatic pain. While this pain can be sourced to a variety of different causes, the most common one I find is an increased amount of tension in a muscle deep in your hip called the piriformis. This muscle gets tight especially during the later months of pregnancy as your hips get looser, the baby gets heavier, your centre of gravity drops, and you begin to walk with a waddle. A tight piriformis can squeeze and irritate the sciatic nerve, sending shooting, burning or electric pain or numbness and tingling down the back of the leg.
Sound familiar? Luckily, you have options besides waiting it out! Here are my top 3 recommendations:
1. The Seated Piriformis Stretch
Stretching piriformis provides immediate relief from muscle tension, is easy and requires nothing more than a chair or bench to sit on. Here’s one you can try throughout the day as needed!
- Sit with feet planted
- Put the ankle of your affected leg on the opposite knee
- With continued breath and a straight back, lean forward until you feel a stretch through the buttock
- Hold the stretch (not your breath!) for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times
2. Glute and Hip Exercises
Strengthening the glutes is a great help in creating the support that your pelvis needs while it becomes looser in preparation for labour. There are lots of exercises described online, but some of these are more uncomfortable and difficult to do during the third trimester. Clam shells are one that can be done through all three trimesters and help create strength and stability in the hips. The focus is on squeezing the glutes rather than turning the pelvis.
- Lying on side with cushioning for belly when needed
- Hips and knees slightly bent with one leg on top of the other
- Squeeze glutes, keeping feet together and knees apart
- Relax knees back together
- Recommend 15 repetitions, two sets, 30-second break in between
- Make sure to stretch piriformis afterwards to ensure you are keeping these muscles relaxed
Massage is an excellent way to relax and reset the piriformis, often providing relief in the first session. I highly recommend regular massages to help keep you comfortable throughout your pregnancy. As an RMT skilled and trained in pregnancy massage, I would be happy to help.