Pregnancy can be a beautiful experience. Unfortunately, half of the more than 6 million women who are pregnant in the U.S. each year experience back pain during their pregnancy, and three-quarters have it with labor.
Over 75% of women who seek chiropractic care during their pregnancy report that it helps reduce the back, leg, joint and pelvic aches and pains that pregnancy can bring. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of experiencing back pain while in labor, as those who have back pain during their pregnancy are three times more likely to have it during labor as well. The good news is that chiropractic treatment can not only help alleviate back pain, but it can also help with a variety of discomforts and complications that occur during pregnancy.
Causes of Physical Pain During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, many women experience lower back pain due to the ways the body shifts and changes to prepare for the growing fetus and its delivery. The uterus expands during the second trimester and the pelvis begins to shift. The ligaments in the pelvis also soften to prepare for delivery as the body releases the hormone relaxin. This hormone softens all of the ligaments in the body during pregnancy, so other areas of the body can be affected by a lack of stability as well.
In addition, the curve in the lower back increases due to the expansion of the belly. This can cause women to tilt backward, putting more pressure on their back as they try to balance out the weight that's been added to their front midsection. This awkward posture can place a great deal of abnormal pressure on the low back, resulting in back and/or hip pain. Neck and upper back pain are common as well, as the muscles struggle to balance not only the extra weight of growing breasts but also the weight shifts produced by the altered back curvatures.
During pregnancy, many women experience sciatica—pain that can run from the buttock all the way down the leg. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It starts in the lower back and supplies sensory information as well as motor control to the back of the thigh, the lower part of the leg and sole of the foot. Changes during pregnancy can place direct and indirect pressure on the sciatic nerve: directly due to nerve compression of the low back, and indirectly from a tightening or spasming of the piriformis muscle in the buttocks, which can also constrict the sciatic nerve.