Sciatica, Hip & Thigh Pain during Pregnancy

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Sore outer thigh and butt while sleeping

May 2007

I am 4 months pregnant and have been sleeping on my left and right side. The problem is that I wake up several times during the night with pain in my upper/outer thigh and buttocks. Once this happens on one side, I switch to sleeping on my other side, but after a little while both sides become very tender and sore. I do sleep with a pillow or two between my knees and under my upper arm. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

I'm almost 7 months pregnant and have been dealing with hip and lower-back pain for three months. Please be reassured that this is normal - your body is changing to accommodate that beautiful little baby. I find some relief by stretching before bed, positioning several pillows around me, and often getting up once each night to fill my water glass and stretch again (hip circles, leg stretches, self-massage). I keep a firm pillow between my knees and thighs to help with alignment, and much to my husband's delight, have finally perfected an efficient turn when waking up to sore hips. I try to sleep mostly on my left side (better for baby), but probably turn at least 3 times per night, stopping midway to let my lower back relax (about 1 minute), then proceed to the other side. A warm bath before bed also helps, realizing that I sleep more soundly on those nights. Swimming helps with circulation issues, too. On a side note, I found out that I have an anterior placenta, so baby is more posterior, affecting sciatic nerve. This may be the pain you feel in your tush - same advice applies. Good luck to you. I think all those sleepless nights are preparing us for baby!

I was recently pregnant, and I had the exact same problem. I would be very comfortable at the beginning of the night on my side, but as the night went on I could handle shorter and shorter stints on each side, and so was constantly switching and not comfortable towards morning. I also found that the pillow between my legs didn't help much. So I'll tell you what I did, though maybe it wasn't the ''best'' thing, it helped me sleep so was best for me. What I did was to sleep a little on my back. They say sleeping on your back after 20 weeks isn't good b/c the weight of your uterus/baby can reduce blood flow to your legs. But I never had a problem (no tingling). I put a big pillow upright behind my normal pillow, and then put my normal pillow sloping down from the big pillow to the bed. Then I would be kind of half-sitting, half-laying. I would also sometimes slightly angle myself to the left or right, but would be mainly on my back. I used this back-sleeping as a third position, just to give my hips a break. I would go to it in the middle of the night when my thighs/hips were hurting, and then could go back to a side a few hours later (after an obligatory potty break). I definitely found that having this option helped me get sleep! Good luck to you! get some sleep!

That happened to me with both of my boys. I wish I could give you advice on how to stop it, but nothing worked for me. Nothing except giving birth and going back to sleeping on my stomach, that is. Sorry. :( Jill

If you can afford it, look into getting a new matress. I had to do this when I was pregnant. The further along you get- the more uncomfortable you get. Especially, if your bed it's cushy enough. Best wishes.... ''Sealy'' sleeper

I went through the exact same thing in my recent pregnancy, to the point where my hip pain effected my walking during the day. I ended up getting a memory foam mattress topper at Costco and it made a HUGE difference. They sell them in all sizes, so you can get one for just your side of the bed (although there will be a height difference) or a full one to use for the remainder of your pregnancy. Carly

see elon bartlett at bartlett chiropractic. you may have some nerve compression and he may be able to help with this. i had some severe lower back pain and leg numbness during my second pregnancy and he helped me with this. beth

I had the same pain, and no amount of pillows or foam mattress toppers helped. The solution for me was a thinnish (about 3 inches) inflatable camping mattress from REI. I bought the mummy size (no pun intended) and tucked it under the bottom sheet, so my husband could sleep beside me on the rest of the regular bed. The trick for me was to only partially inflate the air mattress, so that my hips could really sink into it. Worked great right up to the ninth month (plus one week overdue!). Suzanne

Try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees/legs. I think you will find this will help very much! anon

arnica ointment or gel can help, and try mobilizing L1 or L2 vertebrae, which can refer into that area. take 2 tennis balls, tie them into a cotton sweat sock so that they're in the middle and there's a knot to each side of the pair. pull the fabric VERY tight before tying the second knot, so they don't slide around. then lean against the wall or lie on top of them and push your back into them to move the vertebrae around a bit. if you pain goes away a little while later, then you know it was referred pain. if there's no change, then it's just too long in one position. signed; Physical Therapist mama of 2, who remembers sore hips well!

I want to second the recommendation to get a pillow top for your mattress, especially if it's firm. I had this problem through my entire first pregnancy (starting around 4 months), and thought I had to be resigned to it, but this time, I bought the pillow top at around 6 months, and it has almost totally cleared up the problem (I'm now at 8 months+). I also stretch and/or massage those areas before bed, and use a pillow between my legs, but those measures were definitely not enough by themselves. I discovered the pillow top solution while staying at a Sheraton, which has them built into the mattresses -- I went to a 3-day conference, felt great for those nights, then went back to sore hips at home until I got a pillow top. You can always get one at Bed and Bath, try it out, and return it if it doesn't work. anon

Near-constant ache in my right buttock

November 2003

I have checked the archives, and all I found on sciatica during pregnancy was recommendations for people to treat it in some way. I am looking for advice on what I, myself, can do to minimize the pain. I do not have the shooting-pain-down-one's- leg type of sciatica that I have heard others describe, but rather a near-constant ache in my right buttock. In the last few days it's become much more painful in the evenings, so intense that I sometimes can't move between standing and sitting. So... what can I do? Are there any stretches or exercises that would help? Do certain positions of sitting or sleeping make it any better or worse? Any advice appreciated! Sarah

I had a bad case of sciatica when I was pregnant. Try elevating your feet when you are sitting. Get up and walk around every half hour. I think the key is to keep moving. I know it seems very painful to do that, but it does get easier. See if a warm/hot pad on the painful area helps. I thought it was helpful at night since you are not able to move much in bed. Feel better! Judy

I've had pain in my upper right thigh since I hit 4.5 months. At first, everyone said it was sciatica--including my doctors and physical therapists. However, it felt very different from the descriptions of sciatica that I had read--it's not shooting and it's more like constant numbness, tingling, and burning pain at the same time. Standing for more than 10 minutes is excruciating, walking is hard after a couple blocks, sitting can also be incredibly painful. Lying down even is uncomfortable at times.

My primary care doctor told me to take Tylenol every 4 hours and refered me for physical therapy--this was absolutely useless. The 22 year old kid who saw me seemed to know nothing about pregnancy and just suggested hamstring stretches. I also didn't want to just take Tylenol for 5 months. It didn't help the pain anyway. I tried accupuncture, but that actually seemed to make it worse.

Massage has worked really well--I have been getting massage once a week and what it seems to do is just relax all the muscles in my body making the pain in my leg seem less. [I've been going to Cate Bristol, in Albany. She does prenatal massage and has been amazing.] I also have my husband massage the muscles in my butt and hips--those are the muscles that seem to be spasming and pinching the nerves.

The other thing that's worked really well is seeing a chiropractor--I've been seeing Elon Bartlett. I can never figure out what he does in a few minutes of massage and cracking but it really, really helps. He also did a thorough diagnoses and determined that it's not my sciatic nerve that's being pinched but another one (I can't remember which one it is!)

I've also been doing prenatal yoga and have learned some stretches for that muscle group.

Cold packs seem to help--leave them on until the area is numb. Heat only makes it feel worse.

I sleep on my left side with a body pillow--between my legs. That helps also.

I've also been doing prenatal yoga and have learned some stretches for that muscle group. Cold packs seem to help--leave them on until the area is numb. Heat only makes it feel worse. I sleep on my left side with a body pillow--between my legs. That helps also.

Basically, it seems that the muscles in my butt and hip are just extremely tight as they try to hold up this growing body. They are pinching nerves. Nothing has made it go away, but the combination of what I've done seems to have made it tollerable and seems to have stopped it from getting worse. It was getting progressively worse as I got bigger. The chiropractor seemed to stop it from getting worse the best. I'm now 8 1/2 months pregnant and I'm hoping it stops once the baby is born. The massage therapist and chiropractor believe it will, but perhaps not immediately.

It's been really hard and demoralizing to not be able to move or exercise or do basic things around the house like wash dishes or cook much. But once I found ways to stop it from getting worse, and accepted this condition, it's been easier. I just sit a lot and rest. That helps the most. Whenever possible, I lie down on my side. Good luck. Feel free to contact me if you have more questions. Elena

Pain originating in the low back & buttock area can be coming from a number of different things. Most often pain results from tight muscles pulling abnormally on the spine. However it could come from the spine or pelvis rotating abnormally causing pressure on the nerves. Most common problem muscles during pregnancy: weak abdominals from being overstretched, tight hamstrings (back of the thigh), tight hip flexors (front of the hip) & quadriceps (front thigh), and tight low back muscles from increased arch in the back. Stretching and supportive strengthening can be quite helpful in taking the edge well as some soft tissue work (i.e. massage). If the problem is more bone related from increased joint laxity (thanks to all the Relaxin floating around) then you may need a little help from a specialized practitioner (i.e. Physical Therapist/Chiropractor) that SPECIALIZES in working with pregnant women. (Not all PT's & Chiropractors are abreast of the special needs during pregnancy). Regardless, I would advise seeing a Physical Therapist for an assessment and a home program then you'll have tailored exercises and stretches to your needs. Take care of yourself. Kelli Manring, PT, MSPT

Sarah, I recently went to my doctor about sciatica (I got it about a month and a half ago) and she recommended that I ice the area at least twice a day (a blue ice pack works really well) and for at least 15 to 20 minutes. I found that sitting for any length of time made the pain worse and walking around eased it somewhat, so if you're sitting at your desk you should try to get up every 15 minutes or so to keep the area from getting sore. (One more thing, my doctor also recommended accupuncture - you'd need to check with your doctor about it. If your doctor says that accupuncture is acceptable, I strongly recommend it - it really eased the pain.) Catie

I'm not writing to recommend home care for your sciatica because I don't know of any, and I've seen a lot of sciatica cases in my massage therapy practice. I'm hoping others write with ideas, cause I'd love to know some. BUT....if you decide that you do need outside help, I'd like to recommend Dr. Elon Bartlett, a chiropractor I work with who specializes in pre and post natal care (and infant and baby care). Elon is really good at what he does and he sees a lot of pregnant women. He's very sweet and gentle. His office number is 843-1234 and he's located at 2509 Milvia in Berkeley between Dwight Way and Blake St. Along with chiropractic care, Elon will give you exercise/stretch/posture suggestions to help you with the sciatica. Good luck, I hope you find something that can help. June Kamerling NCTMB

Hi, I had the same sciatica when I was carrying my twins. It seems it was brought on by a pregnancy induced tilt of my tail bone. My doc said that our joints and ligaments loosen up to help with our expanding body and this sometimes can result in one's tailbone tipping. Sitting in my office chair all day really made my tailbone ache (nothing helped) and eventually my left buttocks went numb. Occassionally I'd get shooting pain down my leg, and could not walk easily. I sought physical therapy, which helped. Precisely correct posture walking and also rising and falling into a chair turned out to help. We tend sway odd directions when we are compensating for pregnancy weight and our posture can really pull us in odd ways. I also started to use a cane which helped when I had trouble putting weight on my leg.

But, when for the second time in a week I could not walk at all, I was put on bed rest. Quitting the eight (or so) hours of sitting in my office chair seemed to be the main problem (even though it was ergonomically designed) because the sciatica and tail bone pain ended about a week after I stopped working. It didn't return the entire six weeks I was on bed rest. anon mom of twin girls

Well, I have had that constant ache in my butt before and I can sympathize that its not a fun feeling. It literally is a pain in the you-know-what and no position really helps. What my doc told me was that I needed to concentrate more on having better posture during everyday things. If I am at the computer, I always have one of my feet up on something. That also goes for if you are standing a lot in one place- to just have a step or something to put one of your feet up on. I guess maybe it just changes the alignment of your spine or something and relieves the pressure on the nerve that causes the pain. I hope you feel better and maybe think about seeing a chiropractor? Shaana

A late response, but hopefully helpful. Two ideas: 1. Take a pre-natal yoga class. There are good ones at 7th Heaven in Berkeley with Deborah Saliby AND Yogalayam with Saraswati on Alcatraz in Berkeley. Both are really fantastic in different ways. They have a lot of stretches that help. I learned about my next suggestion with Saraswati

2. Stand straight up, with your arms by your side. Just where your middle finger touches your leg on the side that hurts, press in on that spot with your finger for 30 seconds to one minute. It's amazing but it works! anon

Try a lot of back stretches, side stretches and hip flexor stretches and above all stretch gently. Pelvic floor exercises and pelvic tilts (you can even do these standing with bent legs), cat stretches are all good. Sitting pelvic tilts can be a good way to stretch the back as well as work the abdominals. Also, cat stretches to the side. Another good stretch that helps in some cases of sciatica is to stretch the hip by placing one crossed leg over the other (looks like the number 4). You can also do this standing laying one leg over a ball and gently leaning forward. But the important thing to remember is to stretch very gently- the hormonal changes of pregnancy cause the ligaments to be much looser so it is easy to overstretch. Hope this helps. I am a pilates teacher and just taught through my pregnancy so pregnancy issues are very fresh in my mind if you have any questions. Also, while pregnant I took some lessons from Jayne Moser, a another pilates teacher and she was really excellent- very gentle and sensitive. Her number is 510-823-4296. Another resource that I found to be good was Sarah Swathidevi's prenatal yoga class at Yogalayam. Good luck. andrea

Swim, swim, swim. Swimming stretches and strengthens your back muscles relieving the pain on the sciatic nerve (according to my doctor). I had sciatica with both pregnancies beginning in my 3rd month. If not for swimming I would not have been able to walk. You can get an inexpensive community membership pass to the Cal pools if you need access to a pool. Anon

Jan 2000

RE: Extreme pain and numbness in one leg

During my last pregnancy I got sciatica so bad that it became excrutiating to walk. The Kaiser doctors told me that once you get sciatica in pregnancy you're likely to have it until after the birth. My yoga teacher said call Kathy Moring (in Concord I believe-- somewhere just E of the tunnel on Hwy 24). Kathy teaches accupressure and has a private practice. She did one session on me, showed my husband some of the pressure points to work on for the next couple of days. Even after the one hour with her it was vastly improved and within one day it was gone. Good luck.

September 1998

In reply to Sciatica problem. I am 7 months pregnant and having severe sciatica problems. I have found relief at In-line Chiropractic in Oakland. My Dr. is Liz Ringrose and she has been very helpful. The practice is located on Lake Shore Avenue across from Lake Merrit. Good luck. Kristi

I had severe sciatica when I was 8 months pregnant (couldn't walk, couldn't sleep, I even cried it hurt so bad). My Ob refered me to a physical therapist and it REALLY helped. It did not go away right away, but it was bearable even after the first visit. By 4 visits it was pretty much gone. He gave me excercises to do several times a day which really helped. However: I have talked to a lot of people who have sciatica since then, because I was suprised how painful it was. Sciatica is caused by the sciatic nerve being pinched. But the pinching can be caused by either a muscle spasm (my case), or by disks in your backbone. People with the former seem to swear by physical therapists, people with the latter like chiropractors. I'd encourage you to go to your doctor and get a referal. Lisa