Back pain during and after pregnancy: Tips from the Chiropractor you can do at home
By Dr. Karen Hudes
Some of the things they don’t tell you when you are trying to get pregnant: babies can poop all the way up their back and get their necks dirty (aka a pooplosion), hormone changes after birth can give you night sweats that soak your pyjamas and sheets, and pregnancy can cause all sorts of fun painful conditions – some of which may not disappear after birth. Oh ya, and even if they do, carrying baby, baby stuff, car seats and breastfeeding can cause all sorts of other painful conditions.
I mean all you wanted to do was have this picture perfect pregnancy and teeny adorable little person to marvel at right? Now, this pain crap is getting it the way. Ok, so you go to the family doctor and (most of the time) they tell you to wait it out and it will go away. But it doesn’t. Or it’s getting in the way of your marveling time. I’m writing this to tell you there is hope and lots you can do. I’ll let you in on a secret – pain isn’t normal. It is your body trying to tell you something is wrong and you need to do something about it. So in this post, I will go over some common painful conditions of pregnancy, give you a couple tips you can do at home to help yourself and outline other things that you can go seek help for.
There is always something you can do. That is tip one. Ok? Let’s go…
1. Lower Back Pain
This can happen during pre and postpartum periods and can be for a host of reasons – from sacroiliac joints that are too mobile because of the increased hormone Relaxin in your body during pregnancy, to round ligament pain, and muscle spasms, lower back pain is probably the most common painful complaint during pregnancy and postpartum periods.
Luckily there is lots you can do but what you do depends on your diagnosis.
If you know that your sacroiliac joints are too mobile – this one happened to me during pregnancy to the point I had trouble rolling over in bed and getting up (not a great place to be as a chiropractor treating patients).
One thing you can do is seek out a pregnancy support belt. This one saved me during pregnancy but don’t rush out and buy one unless you are sure this is your diagnosis.
One thing I try on patients in the office before getting them a belt is belly taping with kinesiotape. Kinesiotape is that stuff you see on the summer Olympic athletes (think beach volleyball) for injuries – it is a great tool for tons of stuff and can help support pregnant bellies and backs too.
In general, the lower back pain of pregnancy is fairly easy to treat but it is important to find a practitioner who has experience and is comfortable treating pregnant mamas. Personally, in my practice, I do lots of deep tissue release, muscle work and possibly chiropractic adjustments to sort these problems out in both pre and postpartum periods.
Lots of research has been done to show that chiropractic care is one of the most effective forms of treatment for lower back pain in general as well as lower back pain in the pre and postnatal periods.
2. Tailnone Pain
This can happen during pregnancy and is likely due to ligament strain on the coccyx (or tailbone) from the extra weight being carried by Mom.
Ok, usually family docs say they don’t know why this occurs and it will go away after birth. Sometimes tailbone pain starts after or during birth – this is likely due to a strain on the ligaments attaching the tailbone to the base of the spine from the baby moving or even pushing.
Again the MDs generally say it will go away on its own. Sometimes it does. But sometimes it doesn’t.
I have heard of patients who have had this for years after the birth of the baby and some who even go for cortisone injections in the region years later because they are so desperate to find a solution. Tailbone pain is fairly easy to treat for a manual practitioner who has experience with it – suffice it to say we have to get the ligaments to relax which can be done with some specific release techniques. They aren’t always the most comfortable during treatment but are really effective.
It really breaks my heart that people live with this one for years without knowing what to do. If you suffer from this one please don’t leave it – the longer you do the longer it will take to treat and get it to go away.
Something you can do in the meantime (while dialing the phone and calling to make an appointment with someone to get yourself treated) is to buy a donut-shaped pillow (also called an invalid ring or hemorrhoid pillow) – as you can imagine sitting with this condition is not a fun thing. The donut pillow can relieve some of the pressure with sitting. I have seen them online for about $25.
3.Upper back pain during pregnancy or breastfeeding
Have you ever had back pain in your upper back sort of to one side right near your shoulder blade?
Do you feel like you need to just have someone push on that spot or lean against the corner of a door frame to relieve the pain?
Ya, so that is rib pain. Yes, you have ribs up there. The rib cage goes from your collar bone all the way to where you can feel them near your stomach and wrap from front to back. When you breathe in your ribs are supposed to swing gently up, and when you breathe out they swing gently down a bit – like a bucket handle.
During pregnancy, and even more commonly during breastfeeding or even just with carrying the new baby (generally with one hand), the ribs can get stuck and stop doing this. That causes inflammation and angry muscles. You can even get pain traveling around to the front of your chest or down your arm due to this pain. Some people end up in the ER because the pain can be so intense that they think they are having a heart attack.
This one is super painful but also easy to treat with muscle work and chiropractic adjustments. I love helping people with this one because I suffer from it myself so I know how it feels and what to do to get it to stop. Again, I will advise you to treat it sooner than later because the longer you leave it the harder it is to get the problem solved (but it is still solvable I swear).
A tip, especially if you are having trouble sleeping because of this pain is to do what I call the towel trick. Take a small hand towel and roll it up like a skinny snake lengthwise. Place this on the floor or bed and lay on it placing it between your spine and your shoulder blade on the side of pain. Only lay on it for up to 5 minutes and do not fall asleep on it as it will irritate your back further! This should settle your muscles down a little bit but won’t totally solve the problem. It should get you sleeping though.
I hope these tips helped – Please do seek treatment if you have a painful condition – like I said it is your body telling you that something is up and needs attention – but not to fear there is always hope!
Dr. Karen Hudes is a chiropractor and Rehabilitation Specialist who practices at 168 Sheppard Ave West – just west of Yonge Street on Sheppard. She has a special interest in women’s health, pregnant and new moms as well as children.
If you have any question please call her at 416-512-0247. You can also follow her on Facebook or Instagram @drkarenhudes or check out her blog on the website www.drkarenhudes.ca
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