The nine months prior to giving birth may be one of the best times in a woman’s life to discover the health benefits of chiropractic care. Not only is chiropractic care safe and effective in relieving many of the aches and pains that come with pregnancy, it can also make the delivery itself easier.
The changes that take place within an expecting woman’s body are profound and take place in a relatively short period of time. The additional stress placed on the body by the baby, combined with an average weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds, can result in considerable discomfort. In fact, studies have shown that at least half of expectant mothers develop back pain during their pregnancies. The physiological and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can also result in a variety of other musculoskeletal symptoms, including spinal misalignment, increased back curvature, pelvic changes, and postural abnormalities. This article highlights two of the most common complaints and explains why chiropractic care can be especially useful in addressing them.
Low Back Pain (LBP)
Unfortunately, pregnancy and back pain often go hand-in-hand. Even more unfortunately, relatively few women get help for the condition.
- Between 57% and 69% of women complain of low back pain during pregnancy.
- Only about 32% of women report these symptoms to their primary doctor.
- Only about 25% of primary doctors recommend seeking treatment for the pain.
But there is some good news as well—a small number of chiropractic treatments can be quite effective in relieving pregnancy-related LBP. In a small study of 17 women:
- Sixteen of 17 (94%) saw clinically important improvements in low back pain with chiropractic care.
- The average pain rating went down from 5.9 to 1.5 (on a scale of 0 to 10).
- It took an average of 1.8 visits and 4.5 days to get clinically significant pain relief.
Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)
SPD is more frequently referred to simply as pelvic pain. It’s a problem that is growing more common among pregnant women, either due to increasing maternal age or to the condition simply being diagnosed more frequently. The pain is due to excessive movement of the bones that make up the pubic symphysis, which are the two bones that meet at the front of the pelvic girdle and are connected by a joint made of cartilage and supported by ligaments.
- Over 30% of women are reported as suffering from some form of SPD during pregnancy.
- Approximately 7 percent continuing to experience pain post-partum.
Symptoms of SPD include shooting pain in the pubic symphysis area (which often radiates to the abdomen, lower back and upper leg), pain on movement, a waddling gait and swelling in the pubic area. The pain can range from mild to debilitating, and the condition can interfere with normal daily activities such as bending, lifting the leg and getting up from a chair.
A recent study published in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association has reported that conservative chiropractic care can reduce pain from pregnancy-related SPD, increase mobility and improve function.
As the fetus grows inside the mother’s womb, the uterus expands and occasionally places pressure against the sciatic nerve in the lower spinal column. This pressure can become especially evident during the third trimester as the baby begins to shift toward the proper birthing position. The baby can end up resting directly upon the nerve, triggering common sciatica symptoms, including weakness, tingling, numbness and burning pain in the legs, back and buttocks.
Approximately half of all pregnant women who suffer from sciatica recover within six weeks of childbirth and almost all (90%) recover within 3 months, although there is a small percentage for whom the pain continues for much longer. Fortunately, chiropractic care is safe and effective for treating sciatica—both during and after pregnancy.
What You Should Know
All chiropractic physicians receive training in how to care for their pregnant patients. Some use tables that can be adjusted to accommodate a pregnant woman’s changing body and utilize techniques designed to avoid unnecessary pressure on the abdomen. Some chiropractors seek additional training in prenatal and postnatal care, and become certified with the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) as a DACCP, CACCP, or as Webster Certified to work specifically with pelvic balance during pregnancy. Chiropractors can also provide you with exercises and stretching routines that are safe to use during pregnancy.
There are no known contraindications to chiropractic treatment during pregnancy. In addition, chiropractic care during the actual labor and birth process itself has been found in studies to shorten labor time by 25 to 60 percent, reduce the amount of pain medication required, and help make the whole delivery process more comfortable.
If you’re an expectant mother and are wondering whether chiropractic care might be right for you and your baby, please call our office at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA. Dr. Todd P. Sullivan is certified in the Webster technique for pregnant patients.