During pregnancy women will experience weight gain and some may experience swelling, back pain and other uncomfortable side effects. Receiving gentle chiropractic care throughout pregnancy will alleviate any stress and tension on the spine and allow the body to function at its best.
Could you explain what causes back pain during pregnancy?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Yep, that’s a classic one. And one of the important things to know also is if a woman was already having spinal issues, back pain or neck pain, things like that, when they become pregnant, there’s significant weight gain, which can contribute to back pain, the center of gravity moves forward, which loads up the sacroiliac joints and then the last thing is that the body cranks out that hormone relaxin, which kind of loosens things up, and it almost makes it a little bit easier for a woman’s spine to misalign in their pregnancy with the extra weight and creating these subluxations. So, it’s very important to make sure that the spine is in good alignment and that there is no pressure or irritation to the discs or the nerves because when those things get irritated, they can cause more swelling, and pregnancy can be painful enough with just the weight gain. So, making sure that everything’s lined up and that we make sure that there are no other spinal changes, particularly the head going forward when the center of gravity moves forward, that loads up the cervical spine, can add tension throughout the body.
So it’s very important to make sure that we have all those things taken care of, which will minimize discomfort to the pregnancy, which will make mom more happy, make her less stressed. Less stress almost leads to an instantaneously easier delivery. When a mom is stressed and there’s tension and there’s a lot of cortisol and adrenaline running through the body, it can actually slow down labor. So, to deal with the pain and discomfort, chiropractic doesn’t put anything into the body, doesn’t take anything out, and it’s a great way to manage any type of discomfort associated with the pregnancy and the center of gravity moving forward.
In your experience, what are the different types of normal back pain women describe feeling during pregnancy, and when should they be concerned that something might be wrong?
It’s funny, you use the term normal back pain in women. And in my world, there’s no such thing as normal pain, right? Pain is not normal. It’s always a sign that something’s not right. It’s our body communicating with us and letting us know that something isn’t correct. So, it’s common to have back pain during pregnancy, but I would never call it normal. But the one thing to be sure of is when to be concerned is when things take a turn where walking becomes a difficulty, the numbness or tingling is out of control, or if there’s a loss of bladder or bowel control. Those are things that are much higher in emergency situations, but are rare in pregnancy. And they also require medical attention ASAP. So, if you’re starting to lose bladder control or bowel control, those issues are when you really need to consult a neurologist and make sure that everything else is okay.
But the other thing that’s important to understand too is this preeclampsia thing, which is where the blood pressure starts to spiral out of control. And if there’s a lot of swelling and high blood pressure, a lot of moms will also get headaches. Now headaches are somewhat common in pregnancy, but a severe headache that’s coming on in the third trimester that was never had before, and if it’s associated with any kind of inflammation and swelling, that’s really important and that requires medical attention as well. So, it’s important to make sure that you know the difference between common pains and the things that are more significant.
So, I’m glad that you asked that question because it’s important to know. A routine headache or a tension headache are common in pregnancy, but these headaches associated with preeclampsia are very severe and can be a sign of a more dangerous situation. So, very important to be working with your doctors and communicating all your symptoms, whether it be your chiropractor, ob/gyn, or just general practitioner. So, very important.
What can a chiropractor do to help alleviate back pain during pregnancy?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: With the expecting mom, things are very similar to the regular person. We’re going to check the spine for those misalignments or what we call subluxations. We make the corrections to remove nerve interference, get the interference and pressure off the nerves. And with the use of the Webster technique, that’s also beneficial for the expecting mom. Common things that we see are sciatica or numbness or tingling in the thighs are also common symptoms that can be alleviated with chiropractic care because most of the time it’s just the stress, tension, increased weight gain and things that are contributing to these problems. If we can maintain good alignment, eliminate any nerve pressure or interference to the nerves, usually the body is quite capable of handling those little things.
It is real important to understand too, that when the mom’s pregnant, you can’t really be taking a lot of aspirin, Advil and Aleve and these things because all these medications cross the placental barrier and can have an effect on the unborn fetus. So, it’s really important to make sure that you’re doing what you can naturally, and also consult with your medical doctor too if you’re planning on taking any medications, especially or even just the stuff that comes over the counter.
Can chiropractors recommend stretches or exercises for pregnant women to do at home to alleviate or even help prevent back pain?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely. Look, your level of health and physicality is really important. The healthier a woman is going into pregnancy, usually the healthier they’re going to be coming out, and they’re going to recover a lot faster. So, making sure that your mobile and exercising is important. I’m a big fan of the Prenatal Yoga Center here in New York City. It’s run by a doula who’s trained in all this stuff. And they’ve been dealing with expecting women for a long time, and they have a wonderful community over there where, on their Facebook page, there’s midwives, doulas and chiropractors and everyone so, any questions that you can have, it’s a really great safe space. Yoga is not too intense and can be practiced just about by anyone. And even with the modifications of a body when you’re pregnant, they modify the poses for the expecting mom, and it’s really great.
But just general stretching, general exercising. Pregnancy isn’t a disease or a condition where we have to stop exercising. You can go through a lot of things that are normal, that average non-expecting people do, but it’s really beneficial to stay fit during your pregnancy, so your recovery is going to be faster afterwards. So absolutely, yoga, stretching, Pilates, some people are doing, that are modified for the expecting mom.
Exercise is important while you’re pregnant. Exercise is important for everyone, and it keeps that mind-body connection going and keeps you moving and fit. And that mind-body connection is everything. So, making sure that you’re connected to your body and you’re feeling it, and that’s going to help when you’re delivering so you know when to push. And you’re just better connected when you’re practicing yoga and seeing a chiropractor. So that’s the important part of it. And there’s tons of exercises, but they’re specific to the specific mom. If they’re having any issues with disks or other things, then we might modify those exercises as well.
If women receive chiropractic care before pregnancy and during, can that help prevent back pain altogether?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely, if you have a healthier spine and you’ve been under care before, then the stress, tension and the added weight gain and things aren’t going to have that same profound effect on a spine that hasn’t been cared for or one that’s not in great shape. And the more attention people pay to their spinal health, the healthier their spine is, the healthier the nerve system is, and then subsequently the healthier you are. So, keeping the spine and nerve system healthy, is important for anyone with a spine, but even more so as they go through all the changes associated with being pregnant, like we said, the weight gain in the center of gravity, the forward head posture.
So having a handle on all these things early can prevent a host of issues and make sure that the symptoms are less intense and shorter-lived during pregnancy. So those things are the true benefits. And being under chiropractic care, spinally, you’re just going to be healthier. Your nerve system is optimized, and generally speaking, your body, when the nerve system is optimized, is more efficient at doing all the things that the nerve system needs to do, which is pretty much run and regulate the entire body.
To speak with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit www.ChiropractorMidtown.com or call (212) 977-7094 to schedule an appointment.