Pain During Pregnancy - AND What You Can Do About It!
“It’s just part of pregnancy. The pain will go away after the baby is born.” How many of you expectant mothers have been told this after sharing with friends, family, or maybe even your OBGYN about the low back pain you have been experiencing? It is a response that can be frustrating at best. While it is true that pregnancy can cause many new aches and pains as the baby grows and your body adapts to support them, it is NOT true that you must live with the pain. Plus, there is no guarantee that your problems will go away once the baby is born. More than 2/3 of all pregnant women experience low back pain at some point in their pregnancy, yet only 25% seek treatment for it.
Why do you have so much pain during pregnancy?
As baby grows, your center of gravity shifts along with ligaments (fibrous tissues that act as connectors in the body) stretching as the pelvis opens to make room for baby. The ability for ligaments to stretch so much during pregnancy is due to a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin makes it possible for the pelvis to widen as the baby grows, but it consequently makes all other bones extremely mobile too. Due to this increased mobility, joints are susceptible to dysfunction and pain.
At the lower part of your belly, there is the round ligament. This ligament connects the uterus to the groin and more than doubles in size during pregnancy causing a lot of belly pain. This pain typically comes on with walking, rolling over in bed, and any kind of vigorous activity. On the low back, there is the sacrotuberous ligament, which connects your hip bone to the sacrum (bone directly above the tail bone). When this ligament gets stretched, it compresses the structures below it, which include the piriformis muscle and the famous sciatic nerve. Compressed nerves are dysfunctional and painful nerves!
How can the docs at Washington Park Chiropractic help you?
Adjustments, adjustments, adjustments! After a thorough history and examination, the doctor will start with adjusting the dysfunctional joints. Sometimes when joints become too mobile, other joints near them will get “stuck” as the body naturally tries to stabilize the area. The purpose of a chiropractic adjustment is to get the “stuck” joint moving, along with the tissues surrounding it for proper joint function. With relaxin working away to loosen the ligaments that hold the joints together, many times adjustments for pregnant women require much less force than during non-pregnant times.
Next, the doctor will address any muscles that have tightened in response to the dysfunctional area. They can do this either with Graston tools or through different stretching techniques. If you have seen a physician using a Graston tool, you probably thought they had a butter knife in their hand. It is a metal tool with a beveled edge that gently scrapes the surface of your skin to break up the underlying tissue. This decreases the pain and allows the area to move more freely. The same techniques to loosen tight muscles can also be used on the pain provoking ligaments mentioned earlier. Although, the physician would most likely do soft tissue work with their hands to release the round ligament in the front part of your belly as the safety of baby always comes first.
And finally, let’s talk about taping! Surely, most of you are currently thinking “Does that tape actually do anything?” The answer is, yes! We mainly use two different kinds of tape at Washington Park Chiropractic, KT tape and RockTape. While there are some differences between the two, they both are useful for sore muscles and backs. Both types of tape can help with any swelling or inflammation in the area caused by sore muscles or any kind of injury to the area. The tape works by microscopically pulling the skin up from the muscle and other tissue below it, allowing more blood flow to “flush out” the area. RockTape is especially useful for supporting baby bumps in their 3rd trimester. While store bought wraps and braces can be bulky and annoying, a few pieces of tape can give mom all the support she needs for up to 7 days. KT tape is amazing at supporting the lower back. It has a sensory component that reminds your brain subconsciously to pay attention to the area to help prevent bad posture and pay attention to proper biomechanics to help elongate the amount of relief time between visits.
Here at Washington Park Chiropractic, we are well equipped to accommodate a growing belly! In addition to using specialized pregnancy pillows, we have adjustment tables that can be altered to make room for your baby bump during any time in the pregnancy to make each appointment comfortable and enjoyable, even when lying face down.
Chiropractic care is one of the most effective non-pharmacologic approaches to treating low back pain and is recommended as the first line of defense by the American College of Physicians. According to the most current research, chiropractic care is considered just as safe for pregnant mothers as it is for the general public, as the amount of adverse events post-adjustment have been found to be extremely rare.
Pregnancy can be the most exciting, yet most stressful time of life even under the best of circumstances. There is no reason women should have to deal with sometimes crippling pain on top of it. Chiropractic care can help make pregnancy as enjoyable of a time as possible!
Liddle SD, Pennick V. Interventions for preventing and treating low-back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Sep 30;2015(9):CD001139. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001139.pub4. PMID: 26422811; PMCID: PMC7053516.
Bernard M, Tuchin P. Chiropractic Management of Pregnancy-Related Lumbopelvic Pain: A Case Study. J Chiropr Med. 2016;15(2):129-133. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2016.04.003
Julianna Oates is a chiropractic intern at Washington Park Chiropractic. She has spent the last 8 years studying human anatomy, physiology, and related topic areas. She has taken a keen interest in the care and treatment of toddlers, infants, and pregnant women. She is a member of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, and she will be continuing her education to specialize in pediatric and prenatal care after becoming licensed chiropractor later this year.