Pregnancy can be a beautiful experience. Unfortunately, half of the more than 6 million women who are pregnant in the U.S. each year experience back pain during their pregnancy, and three-quarters have it with labor.
Over 75% of women who seek chiropractic care during their pregnancy report that it helps reduce the back, leg, joint and pelvic aches and pains that pregnancy can bring. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of experiencing back pain while in labor, as those who have back pain during their pregnancy are three times more likely to have it during labor as well. The good news is that chiropractic treatment can not only help alleviate back pain, but it can also help with a variety of discomforts and complications that occur during pregnancy.
Causes of Physical Pain During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, many women experience lower back pain due to the ways the body shifts and changes to prepare for the growing fetus and its delivery. The uterus expands during the second trimester and the pelvis begins to shift. The ligaments in the pelvis also soften to prepare for delivery as the body releases the hormone relaxin. This hormone softens all of the ligaments in the body during pregnancy, so other areas of the body can be affected by a lack of stability as well.
In addition, the curve in the lower back increases due to the expansion of the belly. This can cause women to tilt backward, putting more pressure on their back as they try to balance out the weight that's been added to their front midsection. This awkward posture can place a great deal of abnormal pressure on the low back, resulting in back and/or hip pain. Neck and upper back pain are common as well, as the muscles struggle to balance not only the extra weight of growing breasts but also the weight shifts produced by the altered back curvatures.
During pregnancy, many women experience sciatica—pain that can run from the buttock all the way down the leg. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It starts in the lower back and supplies sensory information as well as motor control to the back of the thigh, the lower part of the leg and sole of the foot. Changes during pregnancy can place direct and indirect pressure on the sciatic nerve: directly due to nerve compression of the low back, and indirectly from a tightening or spasming of the piriformis muscle in the buttocks, which can also constrict the sciatic nerve.
Why Seek Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy?
The changes in the body during pregnancy contribute to pain in the spine and joints. Studies show that chiropractic care is a safe and effective method to help alleviate pain during pregnancy. Spinal adjustments and other chiropractic techniques help pave the way for an easier birth for both the mother and baby.
All chiropractors are trained to treat pregnant women. Chiropractors typically use a method called the Webster technique, which focuses on achieving optimal pelvic balance and alignment. Having a misaligned pelvis during pregnancy can cause a reduction in the amount of space available for the growing fetus and can make it more difficult for the baby to get into a good position for delivery. This increases the chances for needing cesarean surgery, as the baby can get into a breech position (with the bottom coming out first) or a position with the head located at the back of the pelvis. In addition to promoting a natural birth, chiropractic care can also help reduce the amount of time spent in labor.
Keeping the spine in proper alignment during pregnancy helps reduce pain and gets the body into an optimal state for delivery. In addition to in-office therapies to correct and maintain alignment of the spine, chiropractors can recommend exercises and stretches that are beneficial for pregnant women. To maintain wellness during pregnancy and after, chiropractic care can help!