“Taking care of myself doesn’t mean ‘me first’. It means ‘me, too.’” – L.R. Knost
Chiropractic is a healthcare profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health. One of the most common and well-known therapeutic procedures performed by doctors of chiropractic is spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustment. Manipulation, or adjustment of restricted joints and tissues, restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, allowing tissues to heal.
Why would this treatment option be beneficial for mamas during pregnancy, postpartum and beyond?
Let’s start with prenatal care. Pregnancy is a time of many physical, mental and hormonal changes. The mother’s body is constantly adapting and providing for the fetus. Baby inhabits the uterus, which is physically attached to the pelvis and sacrum via the utero-sacral ligaments, round ligaments and broad ligaments. As baby grows, so does the space they live in! This continual growth leads to increased physical loads on the skeleton and the connecting ligaments. Postural changes and an altered walking pattern occur which the spine must accommodate balance for(1). The mother’s body also begins to produce a hormone named relaxin that promotes ligament laxity (i.e. loosening) to prepare for childbirth. The combination of increased strain on the body and relaxin production can make the sacrum and pelvic bones become easily misaligned, which can stress the surrounding ligaments and muscles.
These stresses lead to more than 75% of women experiencing pregnancy-related low back pain, pelvic pain or a combination of these(1). Unfortunately, pregnancy and postpartum women have fewer options regarding pain-relief. Many are searching for relief options that don’t or can’t include medications; chiropractic care is one of those options.
Chiropractic adjustments are an effective and safe treatment option to restore alignment and provide pregnant women pain relief and support. The Webster Technique is a chiropractic technique that is used for specific analysis and adjustment to optimize pelvic and sacral positioning throughout pregnancy(2). The goal of treatment is to place the body in its optimal position to promote healing and restore normal function. This then has been found to reduce tension and discomfort, improve mobility, decrease stress, and more.
Many women seek prenatal chiropractic care not only for pain relief, but also for wellness care to prepare for birth. Sacral restriction may contribute to difficult labor for the mother (i.e. dystocia), caused by inadequate uterine function, pelvic contraction and baby mal-presentation. Correction of the sacral restriction with regular chiropractic care throughout pregnancy may have a positive effect of all of these causes of dystocia(3,4).
Your chiropractor will determine how often visits are necessary based on a variety of factors such as severity of your current condition, the duration the adjustment is lasting, and what stage you are at in the pregnancy. Chiropractic care is generally safe throughout the 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters. I have personally treated women who have begun labor and are on the way to their birthing location!
Common conditions associated with pregnancy that can benefit from chiropractic care includes, but is not limited to:
- Muscle and joint pain: low back, hip, neck, or upper back
- Pubic symphysis and round ligament pain
- Restless Legs
- Digestive Issues: nausea, heartburn or constipation
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
After baby is born, the mother enters the postpartum stage. At this time, the mother’s body experiences a drastic shift in their body biomechanics. Her body that spent 9 months growing and changing, is now quickly adjusting to return to her pre-pregnancy state. She continues to be adapting with hormonal changes as well; the hormone relaxin we discussed earlier remains in mother’s system for 5-6 months following birth. She now has additional stresses and movements such as carrying baby and baby items, increased weight and breast size, feeding positioning, diaper changes and more. Remember, all of this is happening after she has just endured the fatiguing marathon of labor and birth. Moms are amazing!
Chiropractors commonly treat new moms with neck, pubic symphysis, upper, lower and mid-back pain. Adjustments to improve alignment will help her body recover more comfortably and combat these stresses. Addition of at-home exercises will help long-term stabilization of muscles.
To keep it going - the stresses of motherhood then persist and continue to change throughout their child’s development. Chiropractors wish to support moms through all stages to function at their best so they can provide their best care to those they love.
- 5 Conditions Chiropractic Care Can Improve During Pregnancy by American Chiropractic Association
- The Webster Technique: Definition, Application and Implications by Jeanne Ohm, D.C. & Joel Alcantara, D.C.
- About the Webster Technique by ICPA
- Optimal Positioning: Balancing the Pelvis for a Safer, Easier Birth by Jeanne Ohm, D.C.