Pregnancy-Related Back Pain
Expecting a baby can be an exciting time, but it can also mean new aches and pains for the mom-to-be. "Back pain is one of the more common side effects of pregnancy because as the abdominal muscles expand, they lose some of their ability to keep the spine erect and stable. A lack of stability and a change in the center of gravity can cause posture to change and ultimately cause back pain," says Dr. James Cable, DC, PhD, who works with the Texas Back Institute, in Plano, Texas, an organization with programs tailored to the specific needs of pregnant women.
During pregnancy, the tissues that support the spine and pelvis get soft. This allows the pelvis to open up for delivery. It also makes it unstable, so seemingly simple twisting motions can cause painful sprains, explains Dr. Cable, adding that simple exercises and awareness can reduce back pain and fatigue for pregnant women.
According to Dr. Nayan R. Patel, MD, also with the Texas Back Institute, women can try to avoid back pain during and after pregnancy by keeping in mind some simple tips.
"Good posture is a must. If a woman stands for long periods, she can take the strain off her back by putting one foot on a low ledge or stool. Wear low-heeled shoes with good support," says Dr. Patel.
A woman should also try and sit in chairs with good back support or use a small pillow behind the lower back. When in the car, she can adjust the seat belt so that the lap strap crosses under her belly. "Also, pregnancy may make it hard for her to find a comfortable position to rest. She can sleep on her side with her knees slightly bent and then put a pillow between her legs and another beneath her abdomen to keep her spine aligned. When relaxing, she can use pillows under her knees or feet. To keep good blood flow for the mom and baby, and to avoid dizziness, she shouldn't lie flat on back for long periods," Dr. Patel adds.
Women can also try to use good body mechanics or positioning. "She can use the power of her legs to lift objects and hold them directly in front of her body," Dr. Patel says.
Chiropractic Treatment for Moms-to-Be
According to Dr. Lisa LoPresti, DC, a chiropractor in Boca Raton and Coral Springs, Florida, pregnancy is a stressful time for a woman's body. "Throughout the pregnancy, many postural changes take place, causing laxity of connective ligaments and shifting of weight bearing structures, which is why at least half of all pregnant women experience low back pain. In addition, women who have low back pain during pregnancy have a very high risk for recurrent low back pain during future pregnancies. As the center of gravity changes, so does the stress on the spine," she says.
Dr. LoPresti believes that chiropractics during pregnancy can be very beneficial, often helping to relieve the discomfort many expectant mothers experience. "Chiropractic care helps normalize nervous system function, which is an important component of overall good health. Chiropractic care also helps support the musculoskeletal system, easing the strain on the back and legs. The benefits of chiropractic care may also be noticed during delivery. Many patients report that their deliveries were faster and more comfortable than deliveries where no chiropractic was received," says Dr. LoPresti.
Dr. Michael LeRoux, MS, DC, founder of Ocean State Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation, located in Providence, Rhode Island, also believes that chiropractic care is imperative for the health of pregnant women. Not only can care help women to stay more comfortable during pregnancy, but can also help a woman through the birthing process, he says.
Dr. LeRoux has helped several pregnant patients alleviate the stress to the spine (which is caused by the shift in weight-bearing during pregnancy) through chiropractic adjustments. He also prepares his patients for labor with pelvic adjustments that balance the woman's hips, which can help avoid or relieve back pain—even while giving birth.