Many women who are expecting think that certain aches and discomforts are par for the course throughout pregnancy. While they can be common, they do not necessarily have to be a part of your story. Some of the common discomforts in pregnancy include: low back discomfort and sciatica, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome (wrist pain), mid-back and rib discomfort, poor sleep, pubic bone discomfort, round ligament discomfort, heartburn, constipation and other digestive issues. Many of the patients I see notice a decrease in these symptoms, if not a total resolution with regular chiropractic care. Women who receive chiropractic care throughout their pregnancy feel better, sleep better, have more energy, take less medication, are less likely to have a breech baby and are more likely to have an easier labor and delivery with fewer interventions.
A woman’s body experiences many physical changes throughout the course of pregnancy; protruding abdomen, increased back curve, pelvic changes, and postural adaptations. In addition, during pregnancy, many hormones are released which can result in weakened ligaments and joints. Chiropractic care can work to counteract these changes and strengthen the body as a whole.
Below are more detailed descriptions of these common complaints, their causes, and how chiropractic care addresses the causes allowing for proper body mechanics and nerve function (both of which are essential for a healthy pregnancy).
Low Back Discomfort and Sciatica – If you are pregnant and suffering from low back pain you are not alone! Roughly one half of all mothers-to-be suffer from low back pain and doctors now agree that pregnancy related low back pain is associated with a condition called sacroiliac joint dysfunction (often referred to by chiropractors as SI subluxation). A subluxation is a misalignment of a joint that creates irritation to the nerves and tissues in the surrounding area. Many hormones increase rapidly during pregnancy and some of these hormones relax the muscles, ligaments, and joints in the body. This allows the pelvis to open during delivery so that the baby’s head and shoulders can pass through the birth canal. Yet, it is this relaxation combined with weight gain, postural changes and stretching of the stomach muscles that also disturbs the proper alignment of the spine and pelvis producing subluxations during pregnancy.
Sciatica, a common symptom that occurs during pregnancy, causes pain, tingling or numbness from the low back to the back of the leg and foot. Sciatica often occurs because of subluxations in the low back or pelvis along with muscle spasms in this area. Most cases of sciatica will improve or resolve with chiropractic care.
Headaches/Migraines – Due to the changes in a pregnant woman’s posture, extra stress often occurs in the neck and the mid-back. Subluxations (misalignments of the spinal vertebrae causing nerve interference and muscle spasm) of the neck are often the cause of neck pain and headaches during pregnancy. Most headaches in pregnancy are muscle-tension type headaches where the pain feels like a tight band across the forehead and it is accompanied by muscle spasms in the neck or shoulders.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Carpal tunnel syndrome causes painful tingling, burning and numbness into the wrist and hand and it occurs in approximately 20% of all pregnancies. Subluxation of the wrist bones often occurs during pregnancy because of hormonal changes and swelling of the wrist and hands and chiropractic adjustments can help.
Mid-back and Rib Discomfort – Pain in the mid-back that radiates into the ribcage is often due to subluxations that cause the nerves between the ribs to get irritated. It may be uncomfortable to take a deep breath when this occurs. Chiropractic adjustments remove the subluxations to decrease the pain and return normal function.
Pubic Bone Discomfort – As the baby gets bigger and descends deeper into the pelvis, it is not uncommon to have intense, sharp pain in your pubic bone. When the pubic bone is out of alignment it can be extremely uncomfortable to go from a sitting to standing position, roll over in bed or walk. This misalignment can be easily corrected with a gentle chiropractic adjustment.
Round Ligament Discomfort – Especially in a first pregnancy, as the uterus is getting used to being stretched in ways it never has before, round ligament discomfort can occur. This can also be compounded by a pelvis that is out of alignment which in effect pulls on the round ligaments. When this occurs the ligaments can be very tender to the touch and generally achy. By working to correct any misalignment in the pelvis with a chiropractic adjustment and then utilizing gentle, soft tissue work on the ligaments, this discomfort is often resolved.
Heartburn, Constipation and other Digestive Issues – Due to the biomechanical changes to a woman’s pelvis during pregnancy and changes to her center of gravity, constipation and heartburn are commonly a result. By working to restore balance in the pelvis and proper motion in the mid-back, many pregnant women notice a decrease or resolution in these symptoms.
With a reduction or resolution in the above symptoms, pregnancy can become what it is meant to be, a beautiful and joyous experience.