Pregnancy is a time that simply comes with pain as the woman’s body grows and changes—quite rapidly—to make space and prepare for the development and birth of the baby. Pregnancy pain manifests most commonly in the lower back and hips, and that leads to the question about whether a chiropractor can be helpful and safe for alleviating some of that discomfort.
“Most OB/GYN doctors offer very few options for pain relief during pregnancy for things like carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, low back pain, or sciatica (shooting leg pain), so one of the top reasons for pregnant women to seek chiropractic care is for safe pain relief,” says Dr. Rick Gross of Quality Care Chiropractic. “Chiropractic adjustments are very effective at relieving that kind of pain.”
No research suggests that chiropractic care presents health risks to a woman or her fetus during pregnancy. It is a safe, effective practice highly recommended for pregnant women who struggle with musculoskeletal pain (like low back discomfort) that they can’t relieve themselves with stretching or a pregnancy support belt.Dr. Gross explains, “Typically, medical options [for pain relief] include surgery or painkillers, but it usually does not make sense to do surgery since the painful conditions may resolve after pregnancy, and many medications have side effects and are not recommended.”
In fact, pregnant women should not use chronic pain pills at all; they are addictive and can cause withdrawal for the baby after birth. Plus, some non-steroidal pain medications can cause the fetus’s heart valve to close prematurely, which is life-threatening.
The result, Dr. Gross continues, is that “most doctors tell the pregnant woman to just wait until they give birth. Meanwhile they are still suffering and in pain!” That shouldn’t be the case.
Chiropractic care is focused on promoting whole body health by reducing spinal nerve stress and adjusting misaligned joints, so it is a great option for treating pain in pregnant women.
Modifications to the applied force of chiropractic techniques with pregnant women help ensure that adjustments are comfortable, safe, and effective. “Our adjustments are always comfortable and do not put the baby or mom at risk of injury or complications,” says Dr. Gross. To adjust pregnant women, chiropractors use tables that accommodate their growing bellies. Chiropractors use techniques that don’t put pressure on the abdomen and will recommend effective stretches for relieving tension and easing discomfort.
During pregnancy, chiropractic care is considered safe, but certain circumstances exist when it is not a good idea. Always get your doctor’s approval before seeing a chiropractor during pregnancy, but typically it is not recommended if you have vaginal bleeding, placenta previa or abruption, an ectopic pregnancy, or moderate to severe toxemia.
Again, it is very common for women to experience musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy because of the many hormonal and physical changes, some of which impact posture and comfort. As the baby becomes heavier, the woman’s center of gravity shifts, and the posture adjusts accordingly to compensate. Other changes include a protruding abdomen that causes an increased back curve, changes to the pelvis width, and softening of the pubic bone cartilage.
These physical changes can lead to misalignment in the joints or spine. “As the pregnancy progresses, the body releases hormones to relax the ligaments of the pelvis to allow for a smoother birth process, but all the ligaments in the body tend to relax a little, including spinal, wrist, and foot joints,” explains Dr. Gross. “This can lead to less joint stability overall, resulting in pain (back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis).”
Regular visits to a chiropractor during pregnancy can relieve pain in the back, neck, hips, and joints. The adjustments are designed to return balance and alignment to the pelvis and spine, so the woman feels better and has an overall healthier, more comfortable pregnancy. Chiropractic care also can help control symptoms of nausea.
In addition, a misaligned pelvis can make it hard for the baby to move into the best delivery position (rear-facing, head down), which can affect a woman’s ability to have a natural and noninvasive birth. Establishing pelvic balance with “low back and pelvic adjustments can even help to make a smoother delivery, reducing time in labor, and reducing risk of a breech baby,” offers Dr. Gross.
Chiropractic care can be beneficial for your baby, too. As noted, a misaligned pelvis can restrict the amount of space available to the developing baby. Any external force obstructing the growing baby’s normal movements can lead to birth defects due to intrauterine constraint. Chiropractic adjustments can decrease chances of this being a concern.
Before seeking chiropractic treatment during pregnancy, always talk to your health care provider. They can determine whether the pain is related to your joints or being caused by something else like the gallbladder (typically felt in the front of the abdomen but also the back). They can help you decide whether chiropractic care is safe and appropriate for you and your baby-to-be.
All licensed chiropractors receive training related to pregnancy, but some chiropractors specialize in prenatal care. Ask your OB-GYN, family medicine doctor, or certified nurse-midwife for recommendations. Also check chiropractors’ websites; if they specialize in this kind of treatment, they will note it and list certifications and qualifications.
Chiropractic care doesn’t end at the child’s birth. “Keep in mind we adjust newborns and babies, too,” notes Dr. Gross. “We discuss this option with the new moms. For some reason, we tend to think babies are born perfectly with no need for any kind of maintenance. From a chiropractic perspective, we see that babies, infants, toddlers, and kids need quite a bit of care and effort to make sure they grow up strong, healthy, and balanced. To grow a healthy child takes lots and lots of effort. Almost no one, whether an adult or a child, is super healthy by accident, or without significant effort.”
If you have any questions or want to learn more about chiropractic care during pregnancy and how it can help safely alleviate your pregnant body’s aches and pains, contact Quality Care Chiropractic at (630) 499-2225.Schedule an Appointment