During pregnancy, lots of extra stress is placed on the back and the pelvis. Mums usually have to adopt a change in posture by leaning backwards to compensate for the growing bump, and the extra weight of the bundle of joy she carries puts extra pressure through the joints of the back, hips and pelvis. Not to mention, that once baby is developed enough to move around and kick, the muscles and the connective tissues in the pelvis have to adapt and stretch to keep baby comfy.
Lots of expecting mothers find that chiropractic care can help with pains during pregnancy. Not only that, but some exciting new research has shown that pregnant ladies who undergo chiropractic care throughout their second and third trimesters have shorter labours, fewer complications and need less pain relief.
Here’s are some common causes of pain in pregnancy explained, how chiropractors would treat them and some tips on how to relieve them yourself.
“Mechanical” Low Back Pain
This is caused by the mother leaning backwards to accommodate a growing bump, and in doing so puts extra body weight through the facet joints. These are the joints that connect the individual bones of the spine, the vertebrae. The extra weight through these joints will cause them to stiffen up, and will also sprain the ligaments that hold them together.
Chiropractic treatment is very effective for this type of pain, and chiropractors treat this condition by “manipulating” or “adjusting” the joint to free it up and keep it moving well. They would also work on the other tissues around the joints to help support them through the pregnancy.
One exercise that may help is The Camel. Start on all fours, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Make sure your spine is straight, and is not hollowed out in the low back. Pull in your tummy muscles and slowly push your back up into an arch, like the hump of a camel. Hold this for a few seconds, then slowly and in a controlled way bring your back down to a straight position again. When coming down, the back should still not hollow out, but should come down to a neutral position.
Pelvic Girdle Pain (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) and Sacro-Iliac Joint (SIJ) Dysfunction)
The symphysis pubis is a joint at the front of the pelvis, midway between the two hip joints. The SI joints are located at the back of the hips, where the pelvis meets the spine. Because of the change in weight distribution when pregnant, these joints are now carrying a lot more weight than it is used to. Not only that but the joints lose a lots of stability during the last few months of pregnancy because of a hormone called “relaxin”. This causes the joints in the pelvis to become looser and move more in preparation for the birth. This extra movement will help with labour but can cause a lot of pain due to instability in the pelvis while still carrying the baby.
Chiropractors are experts when it comes to joints, and so can use mobilisations and manipulations to get these joints moving as they should, and also work on any associated muscle tension in the area, to provide pain relief and help to get the whole pelvis ready for delivery.
Exercise for the Gluteus medius muscle can also help, as this is the main muscle that stabilises the joints of the pelvis. You can use The Clam exercise. Lying on your right side with your knees bent, make sure your hips are in line with your feet and your knees are in front. Pull in your tummy muscles and slightly tense your pelvic floor and your bum muscles. Keep your feet together and slowly rotate your left leg to bring your knee up towards the ceiling. Make sure you’re not cheating! Your pelvis and hips shouldn’t roll forwards or backwards and your back should stay absolutely still. Only the leg should move, and you should feel the muscle at the top of the left buttock cheek working. Hold the knee up for a few seconds then slowly and in a controlled way lower it down again, and make sure you’re still not cheating! Do 10 and then roll over and do the same on the other side.
Fascial/Connective Tissue Pain and Hip Pain
During pregnancy, a large band of connective tissue (also known as fascia) runs under the bottom of your bump to help support the baby as it grows. This also connects to two muscles at the front of the hip called Iliacus and Psoas. Sometimes, as the baby moves around or kicks, bits of the connective tissue can get bruised or twisted and this causes tension. This can pull on the Iliacus and Psoas muscles or, very occasionally, it can pull on the uterus and affect the space the baby is growing in.
Chiropractors use fascial release techniques to release any tension in the connective tissues, and will also use massage to the muscles around the hips. This loosens of the tension and gives the baby plenty of room to move around. It also helps reduce pain in the hips and pelvis. There is also a technique called KinesioTaping, which uses special tape (similar to that used in sports injuries) to support the bump and help the connective tissue take the strain.
You may be able to relieve some of the tension on the connective tissue by using a gym ball. Sitting on the gym ball you can tilt the pelvis backwards and forwards and roll from side to side to encourage the fascia to unwind and untwist.
If you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to discuss these with your chiropractor.