Life is a miracle. New life is amazing BUT for various reasons, pregnancy can be murder on the low back and hips. In fact, about 50% of pregnant women will experience low back/hip pain during pregnancy. If you typically like to take a couple of ibuprofen, Aleve, or Advil for muscle or joint pain that is no longer an option because anti-inflammatory drugs like this can be harmful to your baby. So, what’s an expecting mom to do? Just suffer? Fortunately, the answer is NO! A chiropractor can help. There are good reasons why you shouldn’t just endure pain and discomfort during pregnancy and chiropractic is a safe and effective way to address this problem.
Why is Pregnancy So Painful?
There are a number of reasons that pregnancy is painful. Some of them are pretty obvious. When you look at your weight distribution, everything is shifting to the front. As your pregnancy progresses, breast and belly grow in size and cause the muscles of the back to work extra in order to keep you upright. This is one of the most common reasons for pregnant women to have muscle tension and pain in the back during pregnancy.
In addition, there is a hormone called relaxin that women secrete whenever they are pregnant. The purpose of this hormone is to loosen ligaments of the pelvis. It should be obvious why you would want this to happen. If the pelvis is allowed to spread it makes delivery easier. However, relaxin works on more than just the ligaments of the pelvis. It works on every ligament in your body. So, pregnant women tend to experience more ligament laxity which can cause inflammation in joints, mild sprains, and increased activity in muscles that are trying to stabilize joints. Relaxin will continue to be secreted in your body until up to one year after delivery.
Another reason for the increase in joint and muscle pain during pregnancy is a decrease in physical activity. Some women make the mistake of completely stopping exercise once they become pregnant. If your doctor says that it’s safe, and you were able to tolerate it well, exercise is very good for pregnant women. For some women this means with the weights. For others, it is a daily walk or run. Of course, as the pregnancy progresses some of your ability to perform these exercises might change. As I mentioned, you should always be consulting with your doctor about exercise, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy. In general, exercise can greatly improve the quality of your pregnancy by decreasing pain symptoms, reducing extra weight gain, and improving hormonal health.
The combination of a change in weight distribution, a decrease in joint stability, and a more sedentary lifestyle are a recipe for joint and muscle pain during pregnancy.
What’s Wrong With Some Pain During Pregnancy?
Just about every pregnancy involves some kind of pain, whether in the back, shoulders, neck, etc. Is there any harm in just doing *nothing* about the pain and toughing it out? Chronic pain causes the body to secrete a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is a potent anti-inflammatory chemical that helps to deal with pain. It’s also the main hormone associated with a stress response. Cortisol will cross the placenta, which is the organ that grows along with a fetus and plays the role of several organ systems such as the lungs, liver, etc. The same is true of neurotransmitters called catecholamines (adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine) which signal stress in our nervous system. When mom experiences stress or pain, baby is also experiencing that same stress. There is some evidence to suggest that exposure to stress hormones while in the uterus will cause the baby, when born, to have a higher number of stress hormone receptors and possibly contribute to conditions like anxiety in children.
For this reason, there is tremendous value in undergoing safe and effective, supportive treatment for expecting moms who are in pain.
So What Can a Chiropractor Do?
To be clear, chiropractors don’t treat pregnancy. We treat women who are pregnant to help them to be more comfortable and remain pain free. A little known fact is that in the state of Oregon a chiropractor can actually deliver a baby, but this is rare these days. (We certainly don’t do it at Body of Health Chiropractic & Wellness Center).
Chiropractors are an excellent option for pregnant women who want to maintain joint and muscle health and avoid or treat aches and pains they may receive during pregnancy. Chiropractic adjustments are a safe and effective alternative to NSAID drugs which can be harmful to your growing baby. Even Tylenol (Acetaminophen) which is commonly recommended by doctors for pain control during pregnancy, has been suspected to have some potential side effects for babies, including a higher prevalence of ADHD and overweight children.
One important part of our approach at Body of Health Chiropractic & Wellness Center is that we also incorporate pregnancy massage where the chiropractor and Licensed Massage Therapists work closely together to ensure that we treat every expectant mother in a way that is safe and effective.
But Can’t Adjustments Be Dangerous?
Chiropractic adjustments as a treatment for pain has a very good safety record. The most common complications are some mild soreness or headache symptoms that can persist for about 24 hours. Otherwise, serious complications are rare in the scientific literature. Adjustments, if performed by a trained and licensed chiropractor, are likely safe for mom and baby. Sometimes, people are concerned that an adjustment may cause harm to a baby, but a fetus is suspended in water and protected by layers of soft tissue. This environment cushions and protects the fetus.
What About You?
If you have been pregnant and visited a chiropractor during your pregnancy. What was that experience like for you? Would you recommend this type of care? Leave your insights in the comment section. If you or somebody you know is pregnant and experiencing pregnancy-related low back pain or other pain symptoms, GIVE US A CALL! You don’t have to wait around for months to get your pain to go away. We can help.