At least 50 % of pregnant women will experience back pain(1-4), with many suffering from severe discomfort that impacts their daily living activities. Pregnancy-related back pain can be multi-factorial and rarely only has one cause. Back pain, wrist pain and leg cramps are the most common complaints reported.
The average healthy weight gain is approximately 30 lbs, most of which is around the abdomen, adding a significant frontal load. The added weight puts stress on the back, hips, knees and feet/ankles. Additional weight can lead to altered posture and biomechanics as we change the way we sleep, stand, and move during pregnancy. As the baby grows and the uterus expands, the abdominal muscles also stretch and lose their ability to support as they did. The change in posture, shifting forward, may cause pain and discomfort, specifically in the lower back.
During the third trimester, the hormone “relaxin” levels increase and contribute to the loosening of joints for the pelvis to accommodate for an enlarged uterus, the baby, and later birth. However, the loosening of joints can decrease joint stability and further alter posture. Other structures, including musculature, may be taxed, resulting in a predisposition to pain and injury. This may result in back pain.
Women report pain and discomfort, including:
Low back pain
Pelvic pain and pressure
Aching legs and buttocks
Sciatica or shooting pain down the leg/foot
Fatigue and low energy
Night-time muscle spasms
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Dhe Quervain tenosynovitis
Studies (5-10) have shown that manual therapy, including chiropractic, can help decrease pregnancy and labour pain. Chiropractors can provide safe, effective and drug-free conservative care to relieve pain and improve function during pregnancy and after birth.
How can chiropractors help?
Reduce back and pelvic pain: Conservative care, including spinal manipulation and mobilization of joints and soft tissue therapy, can help reduce pain and improve function.
Relieve fatigued, aching muscles: Chiropractic treatment plans can include spinal manipulative therapy, soft tissue therapy and exercises to help rehabilitate postural changes.
Help prepare for childbirth: A chiropractor can recommend safe, effective exercises and stretches to help prepare your body for the baby’s delivery.
Ensure a faster recovery: As part of a comprehensive management plan, chiropractic treatment can help manage quicker recovery and address post-natal biomechanical complaints and rehabilitation.
1. Wang, S., Dezinno, P., Maranets, I., Berman, M., Caldwell-Andrews, A., Kain, Z. (2004). Low back pain during pregnancy: prevalence, risk factors, and outcomes. Obstet Gynecol. 104(1): 65-70.
2. Depledge J, McNair PJ, Keal-Smith C, Williams M. (2005). Management of symphysis pubis dysfunction during pregnancy using exercise and pelvic support belts. Physical Therapy. 85(12):1290–1300.
3. Leadbetter RE, Mawer D, Lindow SW. (2004) Symphysis pubis dysfunction: a review of the literature. J Maternal-Fetal Neonatal Medicine. 16:349–354.
4. Borg-Stein J, Dugan SA. (2007). Musculoskeletal disorders of pregnancy, delivery and postpartum. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 18(3):459–476.
6. Berg G, Hammer M et al. (1988). Lower Back Pain During Pregnancy. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 71: 701-775.
7. Diakow P, Gladsby T et al. (1991). Back Pain During Pregnancy and Labour. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. Vol 14: 116-118.
8. Fallon J. (1991). The Effect of Chiropractic Treatment on Pregnancy and Labour: A Comprehensive Study. Proceedings of the World Federation of Chiropractic. 24-31.
9. Zerdecki, L., Passmore, S. (2008). Chiropractic evaluation and management of the pregnant patient: an update from recent literature. Midwifery Today Int Midwife. 28(9): 67-68.
10. Shaw G. (2003). When to adjust: chiropractic and pregnancy. J Am Chiropr Assoc. 40(11):8–16