You're not alone if you believe that back and hip pain are just par for the course during pregnancy. Fortunately, that's not the case! Physical therapy can help to relieve some, if not all, the aches and pains of pregnancy and can literally be a life changing experience for a pregnant women experiencing pain.
Many changes occur to a pregnant woman's body that will lead to low back and hip pain during, and sometimes after pregnancy. As a woman’s belly starts to get larger, the normal curvature of the spine changes and so does the distribution of body weight. Combine this with the normal weight gain, and the pressure and shear forces on the spine increase, causing pain in the low back and sacrum.
A hormone known as relaxin is released by the body during pregnancy. Relaxin softens the ligaments and loosens the joints of the pelvis to prepare for delivery. While these changes are necessary to allow for childbirth, the loose joints can cause pelvic instability. The instability of the pelvic joints can cause misalignment of the pelvis and pain in the sacroiliac joints and/or separation of the symphysis pubis. Patients with sacroiliac joint dysfunction or symphysis pubis dysfunction often complain of back or pelvic pain with standing on one leg to put pants on, getting in and out of the car, going up and down stairs, or rolling in bed. The changes that occur in the pelvis often cause the muscles surrounding the area to spasm, which also contribute to low back and hip pain.
Because everything is connected in the body, pain in the low back and hips can cause a chain-reaction of pain in other parts of the body. Many women experience upper back and rib pain from the ribcage expanding and the uterus and organs putting pressure on the diaphragm and ribcage. The muscles between the ribs and the muscles of the upper back become tight and can be painful with this ribcage expansion. Carpal tunnel syndrome is another common side effect in prenatal women. Increased fluid retention and swelling can increase the pressure placed on the median nerve in the wrist, which can cause numbness and tingling in the fingers, pain in the wrist and muscular tightness in the forearm.
So how can prenatal physical therapy help you with symptoms you may experience from all of these pregnancy associated physiological changes? A prenatal physical therapist can educate you on posture and specific positions to diminish pressure on the joints, decrease muscle tightness, and help relieve pain. You can get tips on the best positions for pain-free sleeping, sitting, standing and other daily functional activities. A prenatal specialist can also perform kinesiotaping and strapping techniques and help you find the best brace or belt to give you a little extra back support. There are a variety of soft tissue mobilization, massage and joint mobilization techniques that can be performed to improve any pelvic misalignments, decrease muscle tightness, and provide pain relief. A prenatal physical therapist will also provide you with specialized stretches and exercises focused on your specific impairments. Whether it’s stretches to relieve pain or specific therapeutic exercise to improve your strength and fitness level, physical therapy can help you have a pain-free and healthy pregnancy.
For additional questions or to book and appointment with our prenatal specialist, call 310-795-9800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.