Pregnancy is a time of excitement and anticipation, as parents-to-be await the arrival of the new life they are bringing into the world. However, with pregnancy, expectant mothers may experience discomforts such as morning sickness, hormonal changes, weight gain and often, low back and pelvic pain.
Low back and pelvic pain is the most common complication reported during pregnancy. A 2005 study reported that during pregnancy, up to 72% of women experienced low back and or pelvic pain. (Spine. 2005 Apr. 15; 30:983-991.) Unfortunately, only 32% of women reported the problem to their prenatal care providers, and only 25% of providers recommended a treatment. (Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2004 Jul; 104: 65-70.) Factors such as higher pre-pregnancy weight and pre-pregnancy low back pain significantly increase the risk of having low back and or pelvic pain during pregnancy. So, mothers and practitioners need to communicate better, be more aware of the extent of the problem, and know that treatment options are available.
There are numerous causes of low back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Two contributors include changing body mechanics and chemical changes. The first involves the change in body posture and mechanics. As the baby grows, the weight pulls forward on the low back (lumbar) and causes the pelvis to tilt forward as well. This creates additional stress and strain on the spine and pelvic joints, and can lead to them becoming misaligned, resulting in low back and pelvic pain. The second mechanism involves the release of the hormones, estrogen and relaxin. These hormones allow the ligaments to soften and stretch during pregnancy to accommodate for the growing baby. The ligaments connect the different joints of the pelvis and spine. So, if the ligaments on one side of the pelvis are more lax or stretched than the other side, they become imbalanced. This can lead to muscle tension, misalignment and pain.
Many expectant mothers just deal with the pain as “part of pregnancy.” Most physicians would agree that it is best to avoid additional medications for pain during pregnancy. So what treatment options are available? The best treatment option is Chiropractic care. Studies demonstrate that Chiropractic is a safe and effective treatment for relieving low back pain during pregnancy. (J Midwifery Women’s Health. 2006 Jan-Feb; 51: e7-10.) Secondly, get proper instruction on appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises. These exercises are geared toward the muscles of the areas under the greatest stress, particularly in the low back and pelvic region. A final option is massage therapy. Massage is effective for relaxing the tight muscles, and increasing circulation as well. However, certain types of massage need to be avoided during pregnancy.
Expectant mothers should be aware that they have treatment options to make their pregnancies a little more comfortable. If you are having discomfort, mention it to your prenatal provider and discuss these possible treatment options.
Dr. John E. Boardman is the proprietor of Boardman Family Chiropractic, P.C. and Ahwatukee Spinal Aid Center, located in Ahwatukee. He treats children and adults of all ages for a variety of injuries and conditions. If you have any health questions, he can be contacted at the following: (480) 704-1954 (office), firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us online at www.ahwatukeechiropractic.com.