Lumbago and Sciatica: What the Heck is the Difference?

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Oh no, is your lower back pain acting up again? During your pregnancy, lower back pain may feel like your new best friend–but not the good kind. Back pain during pregnancy is more like the clingy, lingering friend who just can’t take the hint to leave you alone. What’s even worse is that all backache can feel the same! Trying to figure out the cause of your lower back pain can therefore be an enormous headache. Is it lumbago? Sciatica? How can you tell the difference? Chances are, however, that it is one of those two: lumbago and sciatica are two common diagnoses of pregnant women experiencing lower back pain. But why one and not the other? Let’s find out what differentiates lumbago from sciatica so you backache problems can stop being…well, a pain in the back!

Lumbago and Sciatica: Symptom Checker

Your backache symptoms (where that back pain and if it is accompanied by pain anywhere else in the body) will be the best way to determine what type of back pain you have . So let’s push forward! On to taking a closer look at where lumbago and sciatica pain strike!

Location of Lumbago:

  • lower back pain (specific to one region or area of the back)

Think of lumbago as more localized back pain than sciatica lower back pain. You see, there is a section of your spine called the lumbar section. This spinal area is made up of 5 vertebras (bones in the spine that have a hole that the spinal cord goes through as well as projections that connect them with other bones), which are responsible for much of your movement. Bending down to pick up something you dropped? Thank the lumbar section of your spine! Planning to do yoga? You’ll be putting your lumbar section to work! Your spine’s lumbar section controls movement by functioning in a couple different ways: (1) it is responsible for holding the back straight, and (2) it allows you to rotate and flex your torso. Because this back section of your spine is in charge of balancing your weight, a baby bump might give it a run for its money! Lower back pain, anyone?

Sciatica, on the hand, has more locations:  

  • lower back pain
  • pain in the buttocks and upper thighs
  • radiating pain down either the right or left leg

Sciatica is usually caused by sciatic nerve pressure or irritation; therefore, the areas of your body that are affected will  be those around the sciatic nerve. Where is the sciatic nerve? Well, as the longest nerve in your body, it covers a lot of ground (but you already guessed that by looking at the bullets above, didn’t you?). From the lower back sometimes all the way down one leg–that’s the range of sciatica pain! If you are suffering from sciatica, your pain will definitely not be isolated to the lower back!

Relieve that Lumbago!

Just like sciatica, lumbago back pain can be exaggerated or relieved depending on your daily activities. Think running that marathon will be good for that lumbago? Try again! But light physical activity might be able to give you some lumbago relief!  Sometimes changing how you are sitting or standing (your posture) can reduce pain associated with lumbago. Because lumbago also usually results from a muscle or ligament sprain (often brought on by a trauma *coughpregnancycough*), your big pregnant belly can trigger it! Blame it on the baby!

Good news is, that if the unequal distribution of baby weight (its focused on your front due to that growing tummy of yours) is causing your lumbago pain, when your baby exits the premises and enters your arms, that pain should disappear too! High five for silver linings!



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