While pregnancy is a beautiful part of life, it can be painful in various ways. Unfortunately, we are usually told there isn’t anything that can be done because, well, because we are pregnant. While you may be restricted of various medications and other types of treatments, hope isn’t lost. Pregnancy does not have to be a painful experience. Chiropractic care is a safe and effective way to help with those certain aches and pains.
Some of the most common problems that arise with pregnancy are low back pain, neck pain and headaches, sciatic nerve pain, modified posture and gait, round ligament pain, and pubic symphysis pain. Each one of these conditions can be treated with chiropractic care, involving modified adjustments and light soft tissue work.
Why do these aches and pains increase with pregnancy? The baby is growing at a rapidly fast rate and your body is constantly changing to accommodate the baby. Postural changes occur due to the outward growth of the belly, the increase breast size, and the increased joint mobility. These changes can cause strain and aggravation of those joints involved.
There are also various hormones circulating around your body, including the infamous relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone that loosens joints to prepare for the birth of the baby. The loosening of joints means there is an increase of mobility and decrease of stability in those areas, which can cause an aggravation to those areas, specifically of the lumbar and pelvic region.
Why can chiropractic care help? Chiropractic adjustments help with realignment of joints and restore motion in restricted areas. Treatment is modified throughout the pregnancy to accommodate the increased mobility of joints and growing belly. We have pregnancy belly pillows to allow for comfortable positioning while laying down. One of the most common targeted areas for adjustments of a pregnant woman is the sacrum and pelvis. These joints are the most effected by pregnancy and need to be moving optimally for both mom and baby.
We all know the pregnancy waddle, which involves an increase of the lumbar spine curvature and a side to side “waddle” walk. This modified gait accommodates for the growing belly but puts our body and joints at a disadvantage. This gait can aggravate the pelvic and hip joints, sciatic nerve, pubic symphysis, and supportive uterine ligaments.
Potential benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy: Maintain a healthier pregnancy, relief of neck, back , or joint pains, reduce labor time or amount of back labor, realign and relax the ligaments and muscles of the pelvis, and create an optimal environment for the baby to grow and develop.
Various conditions we treat:
Low Back Pain. Low back pain due to pregnancy can be described as a pain around the spine or deep pain in the buttocks or back of thighs. These pains are most common during the second half of the pregnancy. It is caused by the growing uterus, which shifts your center of gravity and stretches out/weakens the abdominal muscles. This postural change can put a strain on the joints of the low back. The extra weight due to the pregnancy also causes an increased stress on the joints and increased workload of the muscles, which can increase pain. The Relaxin hormone can make you feel less stable and cause pain while walking, rolling over in bed, standing or sitting for long periods, or climbing stairs.
Neck Pain and Headaches. Neck pain can be described as a dull ache or cramping sensation. Tension headaches feels like a squeezing or steady dull ache on the sides of your head or back of the neck. Migraine headaches can cause a throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, accompanied by visual disturbances or nausea. Neck pain and headaches are caused by the postural changes, increased tensions, and hormonal changes. Neck pain can occur throughout the pregnancy, while headaches usually occur during the first trimester.
If a migraine headache persists and/or increases into the 2nd and 3rd trimester, call you healthcare provider.
Sciatic Nerve Pain: Sciatic Pain can be described as a sharp shooting pain that can occur in the low back or down the back of your leg. This pain is most common during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Sciatic Nerve is the largest nerve in the body and provides sensory and motor function to the legs and sensory to the back of the thigh, lower part of the leg, and sole of the foot. It is caused by the increased pressure on the nerve due to the increased weight.
Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction: The pelvis is connected by a cartilage, pubic symphysis, in the lower abdomen and groin area. Pubic symphysis pain can be described as tension or sharp pains on the anterior pubic bone and increases with walking, weight bearing activities, or activities involving lifting one leg, such as climbing stairs, getting in and out of a car, getting dressed, or turning over in bed. Pubic symphysis pain is caused by the increased weight gain, postural changes, and loosening of ligaments that hold the pelvis together. Pubic symphysis dysfunction occurs when the ligaments that normally keep your pelvic bone aligned becomes too relaxed and stretched. This causes the pelvic joint to feel unstable. If you are experiencing this type of pain, talk to your chiropractor or other healthcare provider. They will provide you with the dos and don’ts during pregnancy and labor, which includes limited “knee apart” activities.
Round Ligament Pain: Round ligament pain can be described as a brief, sharp, stabbing pain while suddenly changing positions, or a longer-lasting dull ache after activated located in the lower belly or groin area. It is most common during the second trimester. Round ligament pain is caused by the growing uterus. There are two round ligaments, one on each side of the uterus. As the uterus grows, the round ligaments stretch and thicken to accommodate and support the uterus.
At home exercises: [Before starting any new exercise or at home treatment regiment, talk to your chiropractor or health care provider. ]
Child’s pose: Starting on hands and knees, sit back on your heels with your outreached hands in place. This will provide a stretch for the low back. To modify, spread your knees apart to allow room for the belly.
Kegals: A very important exercise for strengthening the pelvic floor and lower abdominals. Starting position- seated or laying on your back. Put a ball in between your knees (bent at 90 degrees). Squeeze and hold the ball for 5 seconds and release.
Piriformis stretch and massage: The piriformis/gluteal region can impact the Sciatic Nerve and send shooting pains into the back side of your thighs. To stretch, you can lie on your back or sit up. Put your legs into a figure 4 position. Bring your leg/knee to your chest, to create a glute stretch. While seated, you can also slightly press your knee down, creating a different form of stretch. To massage, lay down or seated, put a ball (I recommend a tennis ball or lacrosse ball) underneath the affected glute, bend your knee to 90 degrees. You can do a static massage and just lay/sit on it, or you can move your leg around to create a more effective massage.
Ball Rolls: Position: Sit on a stability or exercise ball. While seated with feet on the ground, roll your pelvis and the ball in a circle, both clockwise and counterclockwise.
What’s my pregnancy story? I was the middle of my doctorate program during pregnancy and struggled with morning sickness until week 16. I had a low back muscle spasm at week 19, to the point where any movement was very painful. I started having constant chiropractic adjustments and never had another muscle spasm after that point. About week 24, I started having pubic symphysis pain, which developed into pubic symphysis dysfunction. At this point of my schooling, I was starting to treat patients myself and this pain would prevent me from helping others. I struggled to walk up and down stairs and felt unstable with every step. I even had to walk with my knees together, which created many other muscle and joint issues. I would waddle my way down into the clinic on a daily or every other day basis, get adjusted, and walk out without waddling. This day to day treatment allowed me to continue to treat my own patients up until the day I went to the hospital to give birth. I have experienced most of the musculoskeletal issues in pregnancy and I contribute my ability to walk without intense pain and continue treating patients to the adjustments. This experience opened my eyes to the misconceptions of pregnancy and how women think they just have to walk around in pain. Now, I am committed to helping other women know there are other options for them.