During pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes enormous changes in many of its systems, quite apart from the need to support up to 20lbs of extra weight.
These changes occurs in a relatively short time and the scale of the adaptation needed in the hormonal, muscular, skeletal and emotional systems is very great. This typically results in challenges such as pain, discomfort and tiredness, making coping with the process that much harder.
Around 50% of pregnant women may suffer from back pain or pelvic pain during their term, with a smaller number being more severely affected. In many cases this is the first experience the person has had of back pain and it may be the beginning of a more long-term problem in some cases.
Spinal Changes in Pregnancy
Changes in weight and in the body’s centre of gravity can lead to backache, neck ache, pelvic pain, hip pain or trunk pain. Activities such as sitting, turning over in bed or walking may become painful and difficult. This can be worsened by having to work with another child who needs lifting, putting into cars and generally caring for in poor positions.
As the weight at the front of the body increases, the pelvis tilts forwards and the lumbar curve increases. The muscles at the back can be shortened and the abdominal muscles at the front are stretched, leading to an imbalance in their strength and length.
Back pain is common, with or without thigh or buttock pain. True sciatica, with pain below the knee in particular areas, is uncommon.
Osteopaths can help your body adapt to the challenges it is facing and gain some relief from the general or more specific pain problems that so often accompany pregnancy. Osteopaths use gentle techniques to help rebalance the body and pelvis and can help with posture during activities and how to position yourself comfortably.
Other common features during pregnancy are for women to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, symphysis pubis pain, sacroiliac pain, thoracic pain and sciatica. Pelvic pain has been linked with the action of the relaxin hormone in the latter stages of pregnancy, but scientific studies have failed to back this up.
Because of the increased looseness of ligaments in later pregnancy, osteopaths will employ gentle manipulative techniques such as soft tissue work, myofascial release, muscle energy techniques and encouraging good muscle control of joints.
Many people come back after the birth for a check-up to make sure all the muscles, ligaments and pelvic joints are returning to normal and functioning well during that time when a woman is very busy with the new baby.