One of the biggest symptoms associated with pregnancy is back pain. Some women assume that this pain is inevitable, just something that must be tolerated. But is there something more that can be done? Is there help beyond stretches and warm showers? Let’s take a look at chiropractic care during pregnancy and how it can help with back pain and more.
What is Chiropractic Care?
Chiropractic care focuses on the musculoskeletal system and nervous system (1). In other words, it is a healthcare profession that focuses on the spine and joints, and their connection to the nervous system. During pregnancy, you may develop slight dislocations in your spine. A chiropractor can not only do adjustments, but also may suggest appropriate exercises tailored to you, provide soft tissue therapies, fitness coaching, nutritional advice, and more.
A chiropractic adjustment, also called spinal manipulation, is the most common procedure performed by a chiropractor. It involves a safe, very specific, controlled force applied to a joint (2). The goal of the adjustment is to help restore proper function and mobility.
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Back Pain
What Causes Pain?
As we explored in Week 18 Pregnancy, many factors combine to create back pain during pregnancy. To quickly review: hormones relax your joints during pregnancy, making them all a little “loose;” your abdominal muscles stretch out and your back must overcompensate for your weakened abs; and your changing shape shifts your center of gravity which changes your posture.
How Can a Chiropractor Help?
Chiropractic care won’t tighten your joints back up, strengthen your stretched out abs, or move your center of gravity back to where you’re used to. What it can do, however, is encourage proper alignment of your spine and pelvis. While your growing bump is pulling your spine out of alignment, adjustments by a chiropractor can help move those misaligned joints back into position. This reduces the stress on your muscles and spinal nerves, thus reducing the pain you experience.
In addition to spinal adjustments, a chiropractor can suggest exercises and stretches to relax and strengthen the body in the right ways to support your back and reduce discomfort. A good chiropractor is not interested only in the alignment of your spine, but takes a holistic approach to making sure you have all the tools you need for overall health.
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Baby’s Presentation
Baby’s presentation describes which part of the baby is “down” or over the cervix. Common presentations are vertex (head down) or breech (feet or bottom down). Let’s look at how chiropractic care during pregnancy can help move a breech baby into a head-down position.
Read more: How to Tell if Baby is Head Down
The Webster Technique
If baby is in a breech presentation, a properly trained chiropractor may try a technique called the Webster Technique to help encourage the baby to turn. The Webster Technique focuses on the sacral area — the area between the bottom of your spine, your coccyx (tailbone), and the round ligament. It is not a procedure that aims to physically turn the baby, but rather aligns the spine and pelvis. This type of alignment can release tension in the hips so that baby has the room to move freely in the pelvis. Breech presentation resolves in as many as 82% of cases when the Webster Technique is performed (3).
What to Expect
Getting an adjustment during pregnancy might seem intimidating to you, particularly if you haven’t been to a chiropractor before. You no doubt feel protective of your body and baby, and you may wonder if your body will be handled in a way that is gentle and safe for baby. Or you may just be curious about what to expect. Here are some great videos that show what the Webster Technique looks like:
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Is it for Everyone?
Chiropractic care during pregnancy is widely accepted as safe and beneficial. There may be situations in which it is not indicated; for example, if you have been diagnosed with placenta previa. Almost all women can benefit from the proper alignment that is restored with regular chiropractic care, though. If you have any questions or concerns about whether it’s appropriate for you, talk to your doctor or midwife to get medical clearance before you go.
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1. Retrieved from https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Why-Choose-Chiropractic/What-is-Chiropractic
2. Retrieved from http://www.palmer.edu/about-us/what-is-chiropractic/
3. Pistolese, R. A. (2002). The Webster Technique: A chiropractic technique with obstetric implications. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 25(6), 1–9. doi: 10.1067/mmt.2002.126127