Sciatica in women
Dr. Manasi Anand

Dr. Manasi Anand

Mar 06General wellness

Sciatica in women

This blog is compiled by Athira Krishnan, a content writer for Proactive For Her.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica refers to pain caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest and thickest nerve in the body, almost a finger’s width in thickness. It runs from the lower back and then down the back of the legs.

It can cause a tingling sensation/sudden numbness/stabbing pain in the lower back.

How do I know if I have sciatica?

The symptoms of sciatica tend to appear suddenly and can last for days or weeks.

  • The most common symptom is lower back pain that extends through the hip and buttocks and down one leg
  • The pain may get worse while sitting, coughing or sneezing.

Who gets sciatica?

Most people who get sciatica are between the ages of 30 and 50.

  • If you have/experienced the following, it puts you at a slight risk of developing this condition-
  1. Previous injury to the spine, a slipped disc or arthritis of the spine
  2. Obesity
  3. Lack of a strong core, weakness in the abdomen and back muscles
  4. Improper posture
  5. Diabetes
  6. Smoking
  7. An inactive lifestyle

  • In general, women are at a higher risk of developing this due to their anatomy (body structure). Women have a wider pelvis, thus increasing the mobility of the hips. The constant household chores and lifting of weights are also an added factor.
  • The growing uterus in pregnancy puts women at a slightly higher risk of experiencing sciatica related discomfort during pregnancy and after childbirth.
  • During pregnancy, there are changes in the production of the hormone progesterone, that causes the muscles, joints and ligaments to become lax. There is increased pressure on the spine, causing it to become unstable leading to the chances of a slip disc or pinching of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can develop even post pregnancy, so proper care must be taken post delivery since the body will be weaker and more slightly more prone to injury
  • If you already have the piriformis syndrome, (a condition in which the piriformis muscle, which is the muscle present in your buttock region, spasms and causes buttock pain) chances are that it may trigger sciatica too. Undue pressure on this muscle causes it to compress/pinch the sciatic nerve, and thus causing sciatica.

Complications related to sciatica

  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Loss of muscle tone - causes the muscles to appear smaller than normal
  • Loss of bladder sensation. This particular condition occurs very rarely and only in extremely severe cases

How can sciatica be treated?

  • Hot packs - This helps to ease pain. Apply heat for about 20 minutes every two hours.
  • Make sure your work set-up, be it at your workplace or at home, is ergonomically set-up with a comfortable chair and desk at the right height.
  • Practise proper posture while sitting. Do not slouch or curve your spine. Try keeping the back straight with enough support to your lower back and relax your shoulders and they tend to naturally clench while working.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects or performing activities that demand a lot of exertion.
  • Deep tissue massages that will release the pressure from the muscles in your buttocks.
  • Depending on the severity, physiotherapy such as IFT (Interferential therapy) and UST (Ultrasound therapy) can be used.

In addition to the above, exercise is also recommended to strengthen and engage your core muscles.

Piriform muscle stretches

Exercise 1 : Lie on your back with your knees bent. Let’s assume it’s the left side that’s in trouble. Lift your left leg and cross it over your right and slowly pull your left knee towards your right shoulder till you feel a stretch in your left buttock.

Do the opposite if the problem is with the right side. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.

Exercise 2 : Stand in front of a high table/platform, the top reaching upto your upper thigh. If the pain is in the left region, bring that leg up and cross it over on the table so that your heel is pointing towards your right thigh. Hold your left leg in place with your right hand, place your left hand on the table and slowly lean forwards till you feel the stretch. Do it for 30 seconds, 3 times each.

Exercise 3 : Lie on your stomach on a bed with your left leg off the edge of the bed. Be careful and make sure you don’t fall off the bed. Lift that leg and cross it over the back of the knee of the right leg. Slowly lift the left knee so that your thigh is almost parallel to the floor and you will feel a stretch in your left buttock. Hold for 5 seconds in this position and then release, by bringing the knee back down and repeat 10 times

Pelvic tilt exercise

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Flex your stomach muscle and pull it in, like you’re trying to pull your belly button to your spine. This will cause your back to automatically flatten. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then relax. Do not hold your breath and continue to breathe steadily.

Straight leg raise

This exercise helps to strengthen the abdominal muscles and prevents the recurrence of sciatica. Stand straight without bending your knees. Lift one leg up 6 to 8 inches off of the floor, without bending and then slowly bring it back down. Aim for 8-10 repetitions for each leg. Once comfortable, try holding in the raised position for 10 seconds before releasing.


Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your hips, tighten your abdomen and slowly lift your hips up off the floor. This exercise is extremely good for the lower back as well as the glutes.

In conclusion

Making small changes in your everyday life will go a long way in preventing sciatica. While working at your desk, make sure you maintain the correct posture, exercise regularly and while lifting heavy objects, bend at the knees . These simple tips will help in preventing any undue stress on the sciatic nerve.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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