Pregnancy, Low Back Pain and Chiropractic Care
A Natural Choice for Expecting Moms
by Richard Picard
Studies estimate that greater than 50 percent of pregnant women will suffer from lower back pain, with one third of them claiming severe pain that reduces quality of life. Of those affected, 80 percent claim that their lower back pain affects their daily routine, and 10 percent report that they are unable to work. The majority of women are affected in their first pregnancy.
The most common pain patterns associated with pregnancy are lumbar (lower back pain) and posterior pelvic pain (pain over the sacrum and gluteal regions). Other symptoms include sciatica which is pain radiating down into one or both lower extremities.
Lumbar pain during pregnancy is generally located at and above the waist in the center of the back. This low back pain may or may not be concurrent with pain that radiates into the leg or foot. In general, lumbar pain during pregnancy is similar to lower back pain experienced by non-pregnant women. This type of pain typically increases with prolonged postures such as sitting, standing or repetitive lifting. Tenderness may also be present in the muscles along the spine during pregnancy.
Posterior pelvic pain is four times more prevalent than lumbar pain in pregnancy. It is a deep pain felt below the waistline, and/or below on either side across the tailbone. Such pregnancy pelvic pain may be experienced on one or both sides.
During pregnancy, the maternal body undergoes various structural changes to accommodate the growing fetus. As pregnancy progresses, these changes have a profound effect on the daily functioning of the pregnant patient. The release of such hormones as relaxin and progesterone changes the body’s physiology, which can exaggerate anatomic stresses in the maternal body.
Relaxin, which starts to be released around the 10th to 12th week of pregnancy, causes laxity within the sacroiliac joints and pubic symphysis to allow for widening of the pelvic girdle. As the pelvis begins to tilt anteriorly, the lumbar lordosis increases, which places an increased stretch on the extensor muscles of the trunk and on the sacroiliac joints, leading to increased low back and pelvic pain. Furthermore, as the fetus descends into the widened pelvis, the increased pressure on the lumbosacral plexus can induce sciatic pain and paresthesia in the leg.
Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system, the nervous system and the effects of these disorders on general health. Chiropractic services are used most often to treat musculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, shoulder, hip or leg pain and headaches.
Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs), often referred to as chiropractors, practice a hands-on, drug-free approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling.
In many cases, such as lower back pain and pregnancy, chiropractic care may be a patient’s primary method of treatment. When other medical conditions exist, chiropractic services may complement or support medical treatment by relieving the musculoskeletal aspects associated with pregnancy. Several studies showed that chiropractic care is safe and associated with improved outcomes in pregnancy related low back pain.
Here are a few steps that can be taken to help reduce back pain while pregnant:
- Use exercises approved by your health care provider that support and help strengthen the back and abdomen.
- Squat to pick up something instead of bending over.
- Avoid high heels and other shoes that do not provide adequate support.
- Try sleeping with a pillow between your knees and avoid sleeping on your back
- Consider having your back adjusted by a chiropractor or getting a massage by a therapist familiar with pregnancy related therapy
- Listen to your body, avoid things that make you uncomfortable and get plenty of rest.
Dr. Richard Picard is unique as he utilizes instrument-assisted spinal manipulation where there is no “cracking” sensation associated with treatment. Gentle tapping spinal adjustments will restore normal function to the area and provide relief of muscular tightness. This provides a more comfortable experience for the patient and significant pain relief in a short period of time. His chiropractic practice is located at 342 Atwood Ave., Cranston. For more information, call 401-942-6967 or visit DrRichardPicard.com