My wife is currently
pregnant with our first child and with that she has started to develop all of
the aches and pains and common symptoms associated with being pregnant.
Naturally, as a Chiropractor, I find this to be the perfect opportunity to address
how Chiropractic Care can improve the pregnancy experience.

Over the years I have
had the pleasure of treating many pregnant women. Pregnant women often wonder
if chiropractic care is safe for them and their developing baby and the answer
is a resounding yes! Pregnant women have been seeing chiropractors for decades
as an alternative to dealing with medications and their ill side-effects.  I actually once saw a patient the morning she
was scheduled to be induced. So whether you have just become pregnant or are
just days away from labor chiropractic treatment is safe and effective.

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During pregnancy,
there are physical and hormonal changes that occur in preparation for creating
the environment for a developing baby. Physical changes include rapid changes
in weight, posture, and gait all of which can lead to a misaligned spine and
pelvis. These changes can lead to painful conditions that we will address here.

We
will review some very common musculoskeletal problems that arise due to these
changes in the body. These include low back pain, sacroiliac pain, and sciatic
pain. The following will break down in more detail some of these common
problems.

Let’s
start with the first which is pregnancy-related low back pain. Low back pain
during pregnancy is quite common. In fact, according to an article in the Journal
of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics between 50-75% of all pregnant
women will experience low back pain at some point with upwards of 33% having
severe lower back pain. It can be so bad that some women actually avoid future
pregnancies due to fear of returning symptoms.

Pregnancy-related low back pain usually starts towards
the end of the second trimester of pregnancy, although a significant portion of
women may experience pain sooner. The average woman gains between 20-40 pounds
throughout pregnancy. This weight gain moves your center of gravity forward,
causing your pelvis to tilt and your lower back to sway – this places excessive
stress on the ligaments, discs, and joints of your spine.
Symptoms often start in the lumbar spine and may radiate into your glute or thigh.
Pain is often exacerbated or increased by prolonged sitting, standing, coughing,
or sneezing. Your symptoms may increase throughout the day, and some patients get
nighttime pain that leads to tossing and turning and disturbs their sleep.
Various activities seem to contribute to pregnancy-related low back pain – with
increased risk for both sedentary and very active individuals. People who have
suffered with back pain prior to being pregnant are more than twice as likely
to re-develop back pain during pregnancy.
Second of the common pain conditions is Sacroiliac joint pain. The
sacroiliac joint is formed by the junction of the sacrum which is the triangle
shaped bone just below your lumbar spine and the ilium which is the large
pelvic bone to either side of the sacrum. These bones when joined together effectively
form the pelvis. Sacroiliac joint problems often begin as a discomfort in your
back just below the waist line and slightly to one side of center. Your pain
will often travel into your buttock or upper thigh. Symptoms are often made
much worse by standing on the affected side. The pain may become more apparent
when you go for a walk or change positions ( like coming up out of a chair, car,
or bed, or during long car rides). The pain is often relieved by lying down and
resting.

Thirdly there is sciatica. Sciatica is characterized by shooting
or radiating pain, numbness, and/or weakness down one of the legs. Typically
you will feel the pain from the low back to your buttock and the back of your
thigh and calf sometimes to the heel. This often starts as lower back pain before
radiating down. Pain can vary and either be dull and achy or can be stabbing
and shooting pain down the leg all the way to the toes. The pain can last for days
or weeks or it can come and go randomly. Sciatica has numerous causes, in the
case of pregnancy it is usually caused from excessive weight putting pressure
on the spine and discs. Sciatic pain can also be created by compression of the
sciatic nerve from tight gluteal muscles. This leads to a condition called
piriformis syndrome which closely mimics sciatica.

It
is unfortunate that these conditions occur at a time when your medical
treatment options are limited. Obviously when you are pregnant you do not want
to take large doses of pain killers or anti-inflammatories. Most prenatal
health care providers actually recommend drug-free treatment. This is where
alternative treatments such as chiropractic have been shown to be very helpful.
Studies have shown that chiropractic manipulation provides significant relief
of pregnancy-related low back pain. According to research in the Journal of Manipulative
and Physiological Therapeutics; almost 75% of women undergoing chiropractic
care report significant pain reduction with improved ability to function.

Let’s say you decide to make the leap and go visit a
chiropractic office. You might be wondering what kind of treatment you will
receive. Typical treatment may include chiropractic adjustments, various therapy
modalities, myofascial release, and exercise/stretching. Chiropractic
adjustments will gently restore movement to your spine and correct pelvic
imbalance. Therapeutic modalities will be used to decrease your muscle tightness,
pain, and swelling. Myofascial release can be a variety of soft tissue
techniques which remove muscle knots and adhesions. Stretching and exercise of
course is used to restore flexibility, strength, and range of motion.

Receiving Chiropractic Care while pregnant has other
benefits besides pain reduction as well. Some of these benefits are preventing a potential cesarean delivery and reducing
the time of labor and delivery. The International Chiropractic
Pediatric Association actually recommends women receive chiropractic care
throughout pregnancy to correct pelvic balance and optimize the room a baby needs
for development throughout pregnancy. With a balanced pelvis babies have a
better chance of moving into the correct position during birth. If a baby does
not assume the correct downward facing direction this is known as a breech
presentation. This in turn can lead not only to shorter labor time and a more
comfortable delivery for the mother but actually reduce the chance of the baby
needing a cesarean.

In practice I tend to see a lot of women who have
recently had babies.  These women usually
experience some of the common symptoms that we talked about previously like low
back pain, sacroiliac pain, or sciatica . The pain can still be there due to the
physiological changes as the body begins to return to prepregnancy status. In
addition, it is common to develop pain to the upper or middle back. This is due
to the increased weight of milk in the breasts and also the act of hunching
over to feed the baby. Any breastfeeding mothers know this pain all too well. Continued
chiropractic care and core strengthening is beneficial in assisting proper
restoration of normal biomechanics in the thoracic and lumbar spine.

If you or a loved one is pregnant or plan
to become pregnant consider consulting a chiropractic provider. Chiropractic
evaluation and treatment during pregnancy may be warranted and considered a
safe and effective means of treating common musculoskeletal conditions.

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