Chiropractic Remedies for Pregnancy Aches and Pains
Pregnancy is such an exciting, beautiful and wonderful time. We see our body changing day by day and eventually get to feel this little person growing and developing inside of us. We wait with anticipation for the ultimate moment of a lifetime where we can finally meet our new babe! Ahhh… Isn’t it magical? Well the truth is, not always.
There are, unfortunately, many moments in pregnancy when we don’t feel like a glowing, energized, well-oiled human-creating machine, but a rusted, stiff, sore, under-slept, just-make-it-through-today mama-to-be. The truth is that pregnancy, no matter how beautiful, can be hard on the body. Even though these aches and pains are “common” during pregnancy, they do not have to be your fate.
What is it about pregnancy that makes our bodies begin to turn on us?
1. Relaxin: This hormone is usually the beginning of the cascade of events that can often make us feel things we have never felt before. This hormone makes our ligaments (which hold our bones together) much looser, in preparation for delivery and some of the shifting that needs to happen to accommodate our growing babe. This can happen in the very early part of pregnancy, before you noticed other physical changes happening, which is why you may feel a bit wobblier than usual.
2. Weight gain: Obviously when baby starts to grow, the extra weight on your joints can create more stress on your joints creating both pain and a change in the way your body actually moves.
3. Centre of gravity: As you get into your third trimester and your bump is growing fast, you may find that you start walking a little differently or that your posture changes. Essentially, what your body is doing (with or without your knowledge) is changing your movement patterns to make sure that you don’t fall forward from being more front-heavy.
With all of these changes going on in your body, it’s no wonder you are not always feeling like your old self!
"Taking a trip to your chiropractor early in your pregnancy can get your body back on track so you can feel more like that wonder woman you know you are inside."
Here are some common conditions that pregnant women experience and how a chiropractor can help:
PELVIC/LOW BACK PAIN:
This one is a true pain in the butt! If you are feeling pain in the low back, radiating down your buttocks, into the lower leg and possibly heel, you likely have sciatica. Due to the combination of the three forces above, you can end up with nerve compression of the sciatic nerve, which travels along this pathway. Sometimes it is nerve compression due to bones of your lumbar spine or pelvis shifting and other times your muscles are the culprit. The muscles that are responsible for stabilizing the pelvic joints sometimes squeeze the sciatic nerve and create the same symptoms. A chiropractor can determine the cause of this pain in the butt and use gentle chiropractic adjustments to restore proper mobility to the area and remove tension from these nerves.
SI Joint Instability
We have our good friend relaxin to thank for this one! When the joints in our spine and pelvis become too loose, irritation to the joints and nerves in that area can create pain making it difficult to get up from sitting, roll over in bed, walk without discomfort, etc. Your chiropractor can evaluate for this and provide exercises to increase stability in the area and do gentle adjustments for any existing misalignments which may be making the irritation worse.
Pubic Bone Pain
Although it can happen in first pregnancies, this one is definitely more common in second or third-time mamas-to-be. When the joint in the front of your pelvis misaligns (usually due to stretched ligaments or weak pelvic floor muscles), the pain can be excruciating! Moms will notice this pain in the front of the pelvis, usually worse with any activities where legs are apart (rolling over in bed, climbing stairs, walking, wide squats when picking up older kids). Your prenatal chiropractor will recommend some exercises to stabilize the joint and can actually move the pubic bone into a better position to lessen the “pulling apart” sensation that many women feel.
Hip Pain and Tension
As relaxin goes to work on making the joints nice and loose, your muscles answer back by tightening things up around the pelvis and hips to maintain some stability. If the muscles go too far, you may wind up with tension in the hips, which can cause pain, making it uncomfortable to lie on your side and get a good night’s sleep. Stretching your hips and taking epsom salts baths may be helpful to reduce some of this tension. An evaluation to ensure that everything is lined up properly to minimize extra stress on these joints can definitely be helpful in making the rest of your pregnancy more comfortable.
MIDBACK AND TORSO:
In the first and second trimester, your body is going through tremendous change in so many ways! Your blood volume has increased to accommodate for your new needs and your rib cage is expanding to take in more oxygen for these new blood cells. You also may have noticed that your breasts have grown. Both of these changes will contribute to rib pain in the earlier part of your pregnancy. As the rib cage expands and there is more stress on these joints, you may have some ribs shifting, which can create pain when you take a deep breath, twist your body, lift something or even just with sitting. Chiropractors can safely move these ribs back where they belong reducing those sharps jabs you feel.
As you approach the later part of the pregnancy, you may also find tiny feet or a little bum in the rib cage as a source of discomfort. Making sure that baby has enough space, by ensuring proper alignment in the pelvic joints, muscles and ligaments can often allow baby to find a better position and take some pressure off of the rib cage.
HEAD AND NECK:
Neck/Upper Back Pain and Headaches
As we mentioned before, posture changes significantly during pregnancy. As the curve in the low back increases with the expansion of the belly, the curve in the upper back shifts and becomes more pronounced as well, sometimes with a rounding forward of the shoulders. This can also cause your head to move forward as well. The joints in this part of your spine will become strained and muscles in the area will tighten up causing pain and tension. This will often be accompanied by tension headaches. Postural awareness and stretching can alleviate some of the muscular tension and remove joint stress. If you’re still working and sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time, try to get up and move, stretch your pecs (the muscles in the front of your chest) in a door frame and do some gentle shoulder and neck rolls to loosen up tight areas. Your chiropractor can evaluate posture and spinal tension to reduce these strains.
Numbness or Tingling in Hands
These same postural changes will lead to more pressure on the joints in your neck and upper back and can cause nerve or blood vessel compression which will often trigger numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers. Carpal tunnel can also come up in the later stages of pregnancy if you’re getting more swelling. Making sure that you’re drinking lots of water and watching your sodium intake can limit swelling and help carpal tunnel symptoms. If nerve compression in the neck is the culprit, you will definitely want to have an evaluation to determine exactly what is triggering the compression and have it corrected.
The added bonus of having a chiropractic evaluation is that in reducing misalignments in the spine and pelvis as well as taking tension off of the muscles and ligaments, supporting the pelvis during pregnancy has also been shown to decrease the incidence of fetal malpositions (breech and transverse babes). The Webster technique, practiced by prenatal chiropractors, is designed to remove intra-uterine constraint, which essentially means making more space for baby to find his/her optimal position for delivery, often allowing for an easier transition into the world for both mom and babe.
Again, these conditions are very common in pregnancy, but it is important to remember that this is not a pregnancy life sentence and that you still have hope to live a very comfortable happy pregnancy if you are able to remove stress in these areas- and earlier is ALWAYS better! Just because your friend/co-worker/sister-in-law had it and it didn’t go away until the baby was born, doesn’t mean you have to wait that long. Seek help and feel better!
Check out Jennifer Wise, Chiropractor's listing at http://healthymomstoronto.com/jennifer-wise-chiropractor to find out how you can receive a complimentary initial chiropractic assessment ($110 value) with your Healthy Moms Toronto Discount Card.