Life has a way of taking you down paths filled with anticipation, fear of the unknown, joy and, occasionally, pain. One path encompassing these emotions (and many more) is pregnancy. Anticipation of what lies ahead can be all-consuming and is often lovingly referred to as “pregnancy brain.” Fear of the unknown continues to fuel a healthy industry for pregnancy and parenting books, and the joy experienced with every flutter, sonogram and baby shower is euphoric. But, sometimes, even during all that joy, pain intervenes with a sharp jolt.
According to an article on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website, it has been reported that approximately 50 percent of all pregnant women experience back pain during their pregnancy and 50 to 75 percent of women experience back pain during labor. A research article published in the Journal of Primary Healthcare corroborated this statistic, citing that 137 out of 218 pregnant women studied experienced back pain during their pregnancy. Therefore, a large number of pregnant women either suffer through back pain in silence or become avid seekers of relief. According to thegoodbody.com,
$50 billion per year is spent on back pain treatment. 40 percent of back pain sufferers seek treatment from their primary care physician, 40 percent seek treatment from their chiropractor and 20 percent seek treatment from a subspecialist.
Low back pain, neck pain and headaches are the most common problems for which people seek chiropractic adjustment, so, it is no wonder pregnant women often seek back pain relief from their chiropractor.
The Mayo Clinic describes chiropractic adjustment as “a procedure in which trained specialists (chiropractors) use their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint. The goal of chiropractic adjustment, also known as ‘spinal manipulation,’ is to correct structural alignment and improve your body’s physical function.”
“Chiropractic care focuses on removing stress and tension from the spine and allows proper communication from the brain to every muscle, cell, tissue and organ in the body,” says Dr. Paul Graves of Graves Family Chiropractic and Wellness Center.
Why is back pain so prevalent in pregnant women? Physical and hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy can add stress to the spine, hips and sacroiliac joints. In addition, pressure on surrounding organs and pelvic structures can cause referred pain and secondary muscle spasms. And, as expected, your body and spine subconsciously adjust to accommodate the added weight and displacement of pregnancy. Spines sway, walking gates change and movements are modified to protect the baby. All of this can inadvertently misalign the spine, the backbone of all movement and communication in the body.
“I get referrals all the time from OB-GYNs because of the tremendous benefit chiropractic care provides during and after pregnancy,” says Dr. Matt Thomas of 360 Chiropractic & Wellness. “During pregnancy, a woman’s body changes so quickly that I believe it is essential to see a good chiropractor in order to maintain a healthy structure and an optimally-functioning nervous system. Hormones are released during pregnancy that cause the soft tissues to become lax and, as a result, the joints shift, especially the pelvis. Not only this, but for every pound gained, four pounds of additional stress is added to the joints in the low back, pelvis, knees and ankles. Seeing a chiropractor regularly throughout pregnancy is essential, not only for reducing discomfort, but also for ensuring a smooth and healthy delivery.”
All chiropractors are trained to work with women who are pregnant. The Association of Chiropractic Colleges says most accredited chiropractic colleges require at least 24 semester credits of life and physical sciences prior to admission. As an example, Dr. Graves completed four years of undergraduate studies prior to attending four years of chiropractic college. The standard curriculum of a chiropractic college includes a wide variety of subjects, such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, gynecology, dermatology, biomechanics and more. Completion of this four-year chiropractic curriculum leads to a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree.
Some chiropractors choose to participate in additional training. If a chiropractor is Webster Certified, they have received additional training on the Webster Technique, a specific chiropractic analysis and adjustment developed by the late Larry Webster, D.C., the founder of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), which enables chiropractors to establish balance in the pregnant woman’s pelvis and reduce undue stress to her uterus and supporting ligaments. Additional ICPA certifications include Certified by the Academy Council of Chiropractic Pediatrics (CACCP) and the ICPA Diplomate Program.
Prior to treatment, a chiropractor will use their training to evaluate a pregnant woman to ensure no constraints for treatment exist. Although complications with chiropractic care during pregnancy are rare, caution should be taken if a pregnant woman exhibits bleeding, placenta previa or abruption, ectopic pregnancy or moderate to severe toxemia.
Chiropractic care can also establish pelvic balance. That can provide your baby with as much space as possible over the course of a pregnancy, which can lead to a faster, easier labor and delivery.
Dr. Thomas elaborates, “I once had a woman come in to get an adjustment with the goal of inducing labor. Immediately after treatment, her husband drove her to the hospital, dropped her off at the door of the emergency room and went to park the car. By the time he walked in the door, she had delivered the baby! Now, that is efficiency!”
Modern Alternative Pregnancy’s website states, “Chiropractic is so safe and so important for proper health and function that even brand new babies can be adjusted and should be checked for any subluxations resulting from the birth process.”
Dr. Graves states, “A lot of pressure can be put on the baby’s head, neck and shoulders during delivery. Since a lot of neurological development occurs within the first year of life, it is vital for the baby’s spine to be functioning properly for that neurological development to occur.”
Dr. Thomas adds, “The birthing process is traumatic for both the mother and the baby. Post-delivery, I see babies all the time in my office. There are no known risks, only benefits. I see excellent improvement in babies with symptoms associated with ear infections, colic and difficulty breathing, to name a few.”
Chiropractic care can even help in the postpartum healing process. It can correct misalignments that may have occurred during labor or birth, ensuring a mother’s body is working correctly so she can heal. Chiropractic is also essential for correcting posture problems and back pain resulting from breastfeeding or bottle feeding and from spending a lot of time carrying baby around.”
From the beginning of the pregnancy journey until the end, chiropractic care can help pave the way for smoother travels and recovery, for both the mom and baby.