01 September 2021
Pregnancy and Osteopathy
Osteopathy can't help with things like morning sickness, but we can help with pregnancy-related muscle or joint pains.
Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy
40 weeks is a short time for the body to adapt to the changing demands of a growing baby. As growth accelerates in the third trimester, the lower back and leg muscles are under new instructions. The centre of gravity moves forward, so to keep you upright, the muscles of the back of the body must work harder. If these muscles are already strong, they will be better at coping with the new role. If they are weak, they may become painful as they overwork.
For some people, the sciatic nerve runs very close to one of the deep buttock muscles. If the muscle becomes tight, as it may do when overworked, sciatica can develop. Specifically, this is known as piriformis syndrome, as the piriformis is the muscle in question. It can be an uphill battle trying to manage this during pregnancy, as there is a constant "maintaining factor". Fortunately, due to the altered physiology of pregnancy, the body may be particularly responsive to treatment. Your osteopath will work with you to keep your body in balance during and after your pregnancy.
The pelvic joints are often affected in pregnancy; not only because of the changes mentioned above, but also because of the hormone "relaxin". Relaxin's job is to slacken off the pelvic ligaments to increase their movement during birth. Production begins in the first trimester, reducing stability and potentially causing pain early on.
Because the pelvis is like a ring, if there are changes in one of the two joints at the back, there will have to be a change in the big joint at the front too. This joint is the pubic symphysis, and when it becomes dysfunctional it can cause significant pain and disability for the rest of the pregnancy. It may also limit the appropriate birthing positions, as opening the legs too wide can cause further dysfunction in the joint.
If you are suffering with joint pain in the pelvis, you don't need to brush it off as just a side effect of pregnancy. See your osteopath before things develop too far for the best prognosis.
Other Aches and Pains
Although we associate pregnancy with pain around the back and pelvis, there are other common side effects too. During pregnancy, blood volume increases significantly. In addition to this, there is generally more fluid retention due to hormonal changes from early on in the pregnancy. These factors can work together to cause problems like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of this include pins and needles or other pain in the palm of the hand. Due to the nerve affected, only the thumb side of the hand is typically symptomatic. There are similar conditions that have subtle differences in presentation. Your osteopath will work to find the cause of your pain and treat the entirety.
Pregnant women are also more likely to develop cramps. These particularly affect the legs, and symptoms tend to come on overnight. Although the exact reasons for the symptoms are unknown, manual therapy may be able to help manage them.