About 50% of women experience low back pain, sciatica or pelvic pain during pregnancy and about 25-30% of them experience severe symptoms. This pain can make it hard for women to walk, climb stairs, go to work or even care for older children.
For years midwives and OB/Gyne doctors have told pregnant moms that back pain is “normal” with pregnancy. They needed to just suffer through it until the baby is born with little relief options available. Just over 1/3 of these women reported feelings of depression during their pregnancy, and almost half had required sick leave during their pregnancy.
Progressive health providers currently refer women to chiropractors like me when the pain became unbearable in the third trimester. I helped them become more comfortable, but by that point sometimes things had really become out of control and full resolution of their symptoms is not possible until after delivery.
In addition to problems during pregnancy, pregnant women with low back pain, pelvic pain or sciatica have a higher risk of developing post-partum back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, urinary leakage, pelvic prolapse and diastasis recti (split ab muscles), resulting in lifelong disability and pain. What a nice gift for becoming a mother!
What if we could predict which pregnant women are at risk for developing back pain and could start them on a preventative chiropractic and strengthening program before it begins? New research has been released that showed we can do just that!
By taking women through two basic tests measuring their hip flexibility and core strength, researchers could predict which women would develop back pain or sciatica later in their pregnancy. Other risk factors were identified as well including having a previous pregnancy, a higher BMI, higher workload and exercising less both before and during pregnancy.
Based on this new research and my clinical experience treating pregnant and post-partum women, here’s my 4 step plan for a Pain-Free Pregnancy:
Step 1: Stay active. Exercise before you become pregnant and continue as much as possible through your pregnancy. Make sure you get 150 min of moderate exercise (cardio, strength & flexibility) in each week.
Step 2: Eat real food and keep your weight healthy. Stay away from foods in packages and focus on vegetables, fruit, grass fed meats, wild seafood and healthy fats to keep your body lean.
Step 3: Get checked by your chiropractor before you get pregnant or in the 1st Trimester. Have them do the core and hip tests in this research study to see if you are at risk and they can prescribe a preventative program of home exercises and adjustments to keep you pain free throughout your pregnancy.
Step 4: Stay healthy. Even if you are already experiencing pain, it’s not too late. See your chiropractor for effective, gentle and safe relief until your baby is born. After delivery, make sure you schedule a post-partum check around 6-8 weeks to see how your spine is moving and to check for diastasis recti, urinary leakage or other damage to your core. Make sure you fully recover before getting pregnant again for the best outcomes.
Thinking about getting pregnant or know a woman who needs help staying pain-free during their pregnancy? I am happy to assist you in Bloomingdale IL (western Chicago suburbs). Triple board certified with a specialization in women’s health/pelvic floor rehab, I am equipped to help them with all of their muscle, joint or nerve related symptoms during pregnancy.
- Gutke A, Hansson ER, Zetherstrom G, et al. Posterior pelvic pain provocation test is negative in patients with lumbar herniated discs. Eur Spine J 2009; 18: 1008-1012.
- Mens JM, Vleeming A, Snijders CJ, et al. Reliability and vaidity of the active straight leg raise test in posterior pelvic pain since pregnancy. Spine 2001; 26: 1167-1171.
- Axen I, Bodin L, Bergstrom G, et al. The use of weekly text messaging over 6 months was a feasible method for monitoring the clinical course of low back pain in patients seeking chiropractic care. J Clin Epidemiol 2012; 65: 454-461.
- O’Sullivan PB, Beales DJ. Diagnosis and classification of pelvic girdle pain disorders—Part 1: a mechanism-based approach within a biopsychosocial framework. Man Ther 2007; 12: 86-97.
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