In a study on back pain and pregnancy half of the women reported having back pain at some point during their pregnancy. That’s a heck of a lot of women !!
Back pain is thought to be due to multiple factors, which include:
• shifting of the center of gravity caused by the enlarging uterus,
• increased joint laxity due to an increase in hormones
• stretching of ligaments
Each of these three factors ultimately affects the structure and alignment of our spine and in turn the function of our nervous system. As your pregnancy progresses, the weight of your baby can become a major load to bear and hormonal changes exacerbate any previous spinal weakness or injury.
Some forms of treatment for back pain obviously include heat and ice, massage, pain-killers and drug therapy. Utilising painkillers or other drugs during pregnancy is alarming for a number of reasons. Firstly, more and more research now shows that there is no such thing as a ‘placental barrier’, so any drugs taken will ultimately impact your growing baby. Painkillers are aptly named because they numb our capacity to register pain. Due to decreased pain we then go about with our normal activities further exacerbating and aggravating the problem. Experiencing or feeling pain makes us stop and feel vulnerable, allowing our body time to rest.
Heat and ice can certainly offer short-term relief from aches and pain, but the underlying cause of the problem will remain and will need to be addressed. Acupuncture for back pain during pregnancy has been found to be very effective. Massage has great value too, often muscles are working harder than they need to due to underlying joint and nerve dysfunction. Masseurs will often refer pregnant women to chiropractors to ensure their pelvis is in correct alignment in preparation for birth.
Some literature suggests that women with back pain should seek advice on proper posture, good supportive shoes, and an exercise program for strength and conditioning. All of these may be helpful, if however there are existing misalignments in the spine then exercise may further aggravate the predicament and “strengthen-in” the problem.
Any area of the spine that has been previously traumatised by a physical injury or sustained work postures and has been left uncorrected may affect a mother’s health during pregnancy. Like any weak link in a chain, a weak area of the spine has a predisposition for further damage if placed under stress.
Hormonal changes and weight gain may also exacerbate previous injuries. Correct alignment of the spine and pelvis is not only critical for the mother’s health but also to promote ideal positioning for growing babies.
Each successive pregnancy stretches pelvic musculature and ligamentous tissue. Therefore, women who have had multiple pregnancies and have not consciously re-strengthened abdominal and spinal musculature are often highly susceptible to pelvic misalignments.
Chiropractic care has been shown to be safe for both mother and unborn children and having your spine checked by a chiropractor helps to ensure that your pelvis is sitting correctly to allow optimum room for your baby to grow and move.
X-rays of the spine will not be suggested by the chiropractor (acknowledging that you are pregnant) and techniques will be modified to accommodate for your growing belly.
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
Fast A. Low Back Pain in Pregnancy. Spine. 1987;12(4):368-371., Berg G. Low Back Pain During Pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gyn. 1988;71:71-75.,Diakow P. Gatsby T. et al. Back Pain During Pregnancy and Labour. JMPT. 1991;14:116-118., Penna M. Pregnancy and Chiropractic Care. ACA. J. Chiro. 1989;26:31-33. Kunau PL. Application of the Webster in-utero Constraint Technique: J Clin Chiro Ped. 1998;3:211-216.