Pregnancy pain: The causes and treatment of backache before and after childbirth
There is no time during the life of a woman who chooses to have children when she will experience such rapid physiological and anatomical changes as both during and after pregnancy.
Of course, we all experience great change during childhood, but at this stage we have few demands on us other than sleeping, eating, drinking and playing. But before and after childbirth it is very different. Changes are necessarily rapid. For example, during pregnancy there is an approximate increase in weight of 12 kilograms, with an increase of extra-cellular fluid volume by 2 to 3 litres.
During the three trimesters of pregnancy there is a big release of hormones, including relaxin, which has the effect of making ligaments more elastic and enables the joints of the pelvis and spine to make space for the growing foetus and for labour. Because of this, the intrinsic muscles of the spine and the larger superficial muscles have to work harder to maintain stability, which often leads to lower back pain, sacroiliac pain and pubic pain in expectant mothers.
An osteopath can help the other body systems cope with these changes in physiology so the mother-to-be can be both more comfortable and her body can work more efficiently during the pregnancy. You wouldn’t choose to run a marathon without adequate care and physical preparation, so why are women expected to have babies without the same kind of preparation and care?
After childbirth the ligaments can take up to two years to regain their previous tensile strength, and the relaxin stays in the new mother’s system for months. This is true of all mothers, however it is especially true of breastfeeding mothers, because it has been shown that relaxin can still be present in them for up to six months.
Having a baby or toddler also requires a great deal of lifting, carrying and uncomfortable positions to be held for prolonged periods. For a woman who’s still trying to regain the pre-pregnancy integrity of her back, this can cause problems.
Most commonly, mothers will experience stiff and sore lower backs due to loss of ligamentous tensile strength, which means the muscles have to work much harder than before. It is also quite common for mothers to feel very uncomfortable in their upper backs, shoulders and necks due to breastfeeding positions and/or carrying the baby. And, as the baby grows and flourishes, it become heavier and the risk of injury increases.
Any acute injury within the back can be very difficult to cope with when having to care for an infant or child, and prevention is far better than cure. By visiting an osteopath experienced in treating pre- and post-natal musculoskeletal issues when you feel and recognise signs such as a stiff and sore back, you may save yourself a very painful and frustratingly long-term injury.
Our techniques of massage, articulation and manipulation can help manage and decrease any likelihood of injury. This is particularly true of mothers who have had caesarian deliveries and who have therefore lost core muscle strength as well as ligamentous integrity. We can also prescribe exercises that will help build the core strength of your deep intrinsic muscles, decrease pressure on parts of the spine, and improve blood flow to muscles of the back.
Osteopathy has one of the best safety records of any healthcare profession and is commonly used as a ‘drug-free’ alternative to help alleviate pregnancy-related musculoskeletal pains.
Osteopaths use gentle, carefully selected and specialised techniques to treat pregnant patients. Treatment aims to encourage compensatory mechanisms, aiding the body to adapt and function as efficiently as possible. This will help to decrease pregnancy-related pains and aid you during this period of physiological change.
Because you are pregnant in the near future you may like to have The Perrymount look after your baby if it has any problems with excessive wind or not sleeping. We also have lots of material for you to download to help you with post-pregnancy and baby issues too.
Written by Chris Brooks, one of our amazing osteopaths @ The Perrymount Clinic