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The Anatomical Challenges of Pregnancy

By: Amanda J. Meyers, DC

I would venture to say that most of us realize the female body goes through significant changes during pregnancy.  Pregnancy can be a wonderful and exciting process; however it is not without its physical challenges.  Luckily, chiropractic care can be extremely beneficial to help manage the aches and pains as well as postural changes that accompany pregnancy. 

Is chiropractic care safe during pregnancy?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, “There are no known contraindications to chiropractic care throughout pregnancy. All chiropractors are trained to work with women who are pregnant. Investing in the fertility and pregnancy wellness of women who are pregnant or trying to conceive is a routine treatment for most chiropractors.”

What anatomical changes take place?

pregnancy-postureOne of the biggest changes is posture… you know, that “pregnant walk.”  The body accommodates for the additional weight from the fetus and placenta.  The pelvis naturally begins to tilt forward (anterior pelvic tilt) to adapt to the additional structures as well as to accommodate for the overall weight gain.   As weight is added, the center of gravity changes and the abdomen is drawn forward.  The degree of change varies from woman to woman.  The changes, regardless of degree, can cause a significant amount of low back discomfort.  The joints in the back of the spine (facet joints) and lumbosacral joint at the base of the spine can become compressed.  The compressed joints send pain signals to the brain, thus making it very difficult for a woman to get comfortable, particularly while standing.

sciatic-nerveAs the abdomen and pelvis are drawn forward, the muscles in the back shorten, causing stiffness in the low back and gluteal region.  As these muscles tighten, nerves, such as the Sciatic Nerve, can become impinged.  The impingement of nerves can cause additional low back pain as well as pain down the legs.

Changes also take place throughout the mid-back.  Breast tissue enlarges to allow for the possibility of milk production.  The additional weight pulls on the front of the chest, straining the musculature in the mid-back to fight against the pull forward.  The muscles in turn stress the spinal joints (vertebral joints) and rib joints (costovertebral joints) in the back causing discomfort.  Occasionally, breathing can become stressed and uncomfortable due to improper joint motion.  If the joints are not moving and gliding properly, they can cause pain and also inhibit proper inflation of the lungs making it difficult to take a deep breath.

The combined changes in the mid-back and low back can travel down and add pressure to the knees and feet.  Often women shift their weight slightly down the legs causing hyperextension of the knees and more pressure on the ball of the feet as opposed to the heal.  Plantar fasciitis and pressure within the joints of the feet may result.

What can chiropractic do to help relieve anatomical challenges?

1948-150x150Chiropractors are educated to keep the joints moving, even under stressful conditions!  A variety of techniques exist to alleviate the stress by adjusting and manipulating the joints, including the back, ribs, arms and legs.  The soft tissue (muscles and ligaments) can also be treated to relieve the tightness and compression they may place on the nerves.  Treatment techniques change throughout the pregnancy to adapt to the later protruding abdomen and hormonal changes.  Chiropractic care can also help with the post-natal changes that take place after birth.  The birthing process can be traumatic on the body.  To return the body to its pre-baby size and structure can be eased with the help of a chiropractor.  Less stress for the mom means less stress for the baby!  Don’t we all want to bring a baby into a healthy and pain-free environment?!

Please note: When seeing any health care professional, it is important that you inform him/her of any discomfort during pregnancy.  He/she is trained to determine where the discomfort is coming from and what can be done to help.

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