The solutions to your pregnancy aches may be as simple as visiting a chiropractor.
Aches and pains are par for the course when it comes to being pregnant. And the worst part is, since you’re pregnant, there’s very little that you can take (in the form of drugs) to relieve the discomforts that the majority of women experience at some point or another during their pregnancy. But what if there was something you could do to potentially help your backache, your morning sickness, your stress levels, your gastric reflux and heartburn, and your headaches? Here we explore chiropractic and pregnancy, and the many safe benefits that it offers to expecting moms.
Your pregnant body
“One of the first things that happens when you fall pregnant, is your hormones change as your body starts to produce more oestrogen and progesterone in order to sustain the pregnancy,” says Dr Adrian Laros, a Cape Town based chiropractor with a special interest in pregnant women and babies.
What this does, he explains, is change the physiology of your body, and not only will your muscle tone decrease, but your ligaments will become more lax and your body will tend to store fat more readily.
“From a chiropractic point of view, the chances of your vertebrae becoming displaced as a result of this are high– especially towards the end of your pregnancy when your hormone levels surge to prepare your body for your baby’s birth.”
Add postural changes to the equation (as your baby bump starts to grow, so does the lordosis – or inward curvature –of your lower back increase, resulting in what is known as a “sway” back) and the chances of developing lower back pain and other issues are relatively high.
“What the ‘sway’ back does is it compensates for the weight in the front– your baby. What then happens, is that other compensations are created. For example, the kyphotic curve of your thoracics flattens and your cervical curve increases,” he says, adding that with hormone increases, your sacroiliac joints become prone to injury too.
And this is where chiropractic comes into play, both during and after pregnancy– when everything has to shift back into place again.
Pregnant women generally come and see a chiropractor for back pain, and the level of back pain will determine how many sessions of chiropractic is required.
“First, we stabilise the patient. This requires 6-12 treatments in a 3-6 week period and once she’s stable, we reduce the number of treatments and try to wean her off them and put her on a monthly maintenance care programme for the duration of her pregnancy,” says Dr Laros.
Interestingly, though, he points out that chiropractic treatment is not only beneficial for lower back pain and neck pain, but it assists in a range of complaints that crop up during pregnancy.
“We believe that the body has everything that it needs in order to be healthy, so long as it’s free of nerve interference. Chiropractic treatments freeu p the nervous system so that the body can do what it does best at 100 percent of its potential. The brain is the computer, the spinal cord is the conduit and the nerve routes coming off the spinal cord travel to every muscle, cell and organ of your body. If there are any blockages in those areas, then your body can’t operate in the way that it’s meant to naturally. Hormone release, enzyme release, your heartbeat, your breathing and all your visceral organs are linked to the spinal cord,” he says.
It’s for this reason that chiropractic is also beneficial to pregnant women suffering from headaches and morning sickness (both triggered by hormone release and stress on the liver), gastric reflux and heartburn.“We adjust the areas of the spine that enervate the organs involved,” he says, adding that to treat heartburn, there’s a gastric manoeuvre that can be done to prevent it. The results? You might feel better, sleep better and possibly even stress less.
Lastly, to ease a natural birth, chiropractic treatment also has its uses. It can create more space in the pelvic cavity for the foetus (if your hips are twisted, then there’s less space in the pelvic cavity, putting pressure on the uterus). “We use chiropractic wedges and target specific points on the pelvis, together with gravity, to ease the pregnant body back into its correct position. It works brilliantly– especially during late pregnancy when ligaments are lax and muscle tone is low.”
Is it safe?
According to Dr Laros, chiropractic (a drugless profession) is completely safe during pregnancy and you can have treatment at any stage of the nine months. “Chiropractic is always safe if practised by a qualified, registered chiropractor,” he maintains.
“We use a technique called sacro-occipital technique, which incorporates chiropractic wedges and is gentle and effective in removing interference from the nervous system. It is sometimes necessary to do some osseous adjusting,” – what the lay person thinks of as back-cracking – “but each patient is treated on merit and on the evaluation of her history to ensure a successful outcome. Pregnant women should consider being adjusted early on as a preventative measure before any symptoms appear. This will ensure that their bodies are working at their full potential for a healthy pregnancy and easier labour.”
The added benefits
Eight pregnancy niggles that could benefit from chiropractic:
- Meralgia parethetica: the numbness or pain in the outer thigh not caused by injury to the thigh, but by injury to a nerve that extends from the thigh to the spinal column.
- Brachial neuralgia: a radiating pain in the shoulder and upper arm caused by damage to a nerve in the neck.
- Intercostal neuralgia: a rare pain condition in which pregnant women feel bands of pain around the rib cage.
- Sciatica: leg pain, numbness or weakness that starts in the low back and travels down the sciatic nerve in the leg causing sciatica pain.
- Cocydynia: a medical term meaning pain in the coccyx or tailbone area, usually brought on by sitting down too abruptly.
- Separation of the symphisis pubis: the separation of normally joined pubic bones, as in the dislocation of the bones, without a fracture.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: this occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist.
- Bells palsy: a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerves.