As many new mothers can attest, the muscle strains of pregnancy are very real and can be more than just a nuisance. The average weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds, combined with the increased stress placed on the body by the baby, may result in severe discomfort. Studies have found that about half of all expectant mothers will develop low-back pain at some point during their pregnancies.
During early pregnancy, a woman’s center of gravity begins to shift forward to the front of her pelvis. As the baby grows in size, the woman’s weight is projected even farther forward, and the curvature of her lower back is increased, placing extra stress on the spine. In compensation, the normal curvature of the upper spine increases, as well.
While these changes sound dramatic, pregnancy hormones help loosen the ligaments attached to the pelvic bones. But even these natural changes designed to accommodate the growing baby can result in postural imbalances and joint strains.
What Can You Do for Pregnancy-related Back Pain?
Safe exercise during pregnancy can help strengthen your muscles and prevent discomfort. If you weren’t exercising before your pregnancy, check with your doctor before starting or continuing any exercise. Walking, swimming, and stationary cycling are relatively safe cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women, because they do not require jerking or bouncing movements.
Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees to take pressure off your lower back. Full-length “body pillows” or “pregnancy wedges” may be helpful. Lying on your left side allows unobstructed blood flow and helps your kidneys flush waste from your body.
How Can Chiropractic Care Help?
One of the doctors at Cole Pain Therapy Group can assess you for any imbalances in the pelvis or elsewhere in your body that could contribute to pregnancy discomfort or possible neuromusculoskeletal problems related to childbirth.
Many pregnant women have found that chiropractic treatments provide pain relief during pregnancy. Chiropractic manipulation is safe for a pregnant woman and her baby and can be especially attractive to those who are trying to avoid medications in treating their back pain.
Specific spine and hip strengthening exercises are very important for management and prevention of pregnancy related spine pain. (see figures)
Chiropractic care can also help after childbirth. At this time, nine months of posture changes are quickly reversed. In the eight weeks following labor and delivery, the ligaments that loosened during pregnancy begin to tighten up again. Ideally, joint problems brought on during pregnancy from improper lifting or reaching should be treated before the ligaments return to their pre-pregnancy state to prevent muscle tension, headaches, rib discomfort, and shoulder problems.