Pregnancy is no different than an elite athlete training and stressing their skeletal system, as well as their muscles, tendons and ligaments. After conception a lot of changes occur over the next nine months, which can cause pain for the expecting mother. Many women have discovered the benefits of chiropractic for not only these aches and pains but also for an easier pregnancy.
One of the common problems associated with pregnancy is Sciatica. When the slightest pressure disrupts the sciatic nerve traveling down both legs it can cause: an increase or decrease in information relayed to your body; causing shooting pain; an area of numbness or muscle weakness.
In an effort to reduce the pressure on the nerves, a person will lean away from the side of pain, known as antalgia, when the cause of pain originates in the back.
Piriformis Syndrome is another possible cause of Sciatica. This muscle is located in the buttock roughly behind your back pocket. If this muscle becomes enlarged, tight or inflamed, it can irritate the nerve.
From my experience and understanding of the human body’s biomechanics, I feel that indirect or direct pressure on nerves from inside the womb, where the baby is sprawled out like Spiderman climbing a wall, is not the only reason this occurs.
As women reach later trimesters they gain weight. Sometimes it is a little and sometimes a lot. As the inner thigh becomes thicker women lose their ability for their normal walking pattern and swing of their legs, because one thigh touches the other thigh. They are forced to externally rotate their legs and swing them outward when walking to make an adjustment for this change. This is affectionately referred to as waddling.
This motion can contract the piriformis muscle and irritate it or make it bigger. When this happens there is a good chance the sciatic nerve can be pinched. Manipulation and stretching are really helpful for this.
Another common pain for women is headaches. It could be from changes in your body, hormones, everyday chores becoming more difficult, the fact that “there’s a baby coming!” stress and even your disturbed sleep pattern.
Chiropractors are great at helping people of all ages with headaches because many headaches stem from imbalances in the neck bones and the muscles. All chiropractors specialize in treating the neck and the rest of your body, some may just use a different technique to do so. There are also variations of adjusting maneuvers for a pregnant patient to reduce stress on the belly region.
Among the multitudes of headache studies that showed chiropractic manipulation helped headache sufferers, a 2009 study in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice specifically found headaches in the pregnant patient also responded well to chiropractic.
Low back pain can be caused by the unborn child, but as pregnancy results in the stomach increasing in size there is also more stress to the low back? A 2012 study in Chiropractic & Manual Therapies found chiropractic very helpful for low back pain related to pregnancy, as did The Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health.
The only bonus of pregnancy is because change happens over 9 months your body has time to strengthen in accordance with the growth of your child. However, when there is a lot of weight up front in the belly area there is about a 10 fold increase in pressure in the low back. In other words, every pound up front is equal to 10 pounds of additional pressure.
So if you are a guy and have a 20 pound stomach, that is roughly 200 pounds of harmful pressure, per square inch of your disc, in the low back. Ouch! Women should always discuss an exercise program with their OBGYN to ensure it is safe.
When exercise programs don’t work to stop back pain, many OBGYNs refer these patients to Chiropractic Doctors because for years spinal manipulation has show tremendous effectiveness and cost savings in the care of low back pain, as well as other common complaints.
The Sacroiliac joint or SI joint is also another common source of LBP for women. These are the two bumps you can feel just below your belt line and about 2 fingers from the midline on both sides. The Journal of Family Practice Research reported 91% of test subjects reported relief from SI pain after receiving manipulation.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is another “great” side-effect of pregnancy in some cases. CTS involves less space in the wrist for nerves and blood vessels to pass. Women sometimes experience swollen ankles and swollen wrists due to an increase of fluids. Symptoms will usually diminish after childbirth, although chiropractic and physical therapy treatment can help decrease symptoms temporarily.
Lately I have had a few patients come in to see if adjusting could help coax the baby to reposition so they were head down and ready for launch. It has worked. I’ve had a few tough cases too in which the unborn child was upright and backwards. A few days later and the child was ready for takeoff.
Typically I use some heat to relax the muscles first. Electric stimulation is not an option because we aren’t sure how it affects the baby.
Next I will use a massager to further relax tight muscles in the back. We also have a hydrotherapy massage table, which is like laying in a Jacuzzi without getting wet or putting on your bikini.
Then I can start some light stretching and vary my adjusting techniques depending on how far along the mother is and what seems to work best for her. I never fall in love with one technique because everyone is different and patients don’t respond to the same form of treatment either. In the end, most often the baby will start to reposition after a few treatments.
So if you haven’t tried chiropractic as part of your regular health routine, it is never too late to start doing something good for your body.
Dr. Jay M. Lipoff is the owner of Back At Your Best Chiropractic & Physical Therapy, LLC, which is located in the Wildewood Shopping Center. Dr. Lipoff is also the author of “Back At Your Best; Balancing the Demands of Life With the Needs of Your Body.” It is available in book and Kindle format at Amazon.
He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University in 1990, a Doctorate of Chiropractic (D.C.) from New York Chiropractic College (NYCC) in 1994 and he became a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) in 2005.
Dr. Lipoff is an Executive Board Member, International Chiropractic Association Council on Fitness and Sports Health Science; won the 2015 Arnold Schwarzenegger Legacy Award for his community work; had a radio segment: Back At Your Best in 5 Minutes or Less, President and Founder; Foundation 4 Heroes, Contributing writer, Huffington Post’ Co-Founder, Drug Free Training USA; Member, NY Strength-promoting the importance of physical conditioning; Board Member of Public Relations Committee, Maryland Chiropractic Association; has spoken on nationally broadcasted radio interviews, has articles in print and referenced in over 150 print papers, magazine and on websites, President, Wildewood Business Network-promoting better business relations and community outreach.