Managing the Aches and Pains of Pregnancy

Chiropractors can help women through the aches and pains of pregnancy by providing chiropractic adjustments using the Webster Technique which aligns the spine and pelvis and relieves tension and nerve pressure. Prenatal yoga and pregnancy massage are other natural ways to find relief from pregnancy aches and pains.

You have been providing chiropractic care to pregnant women for many years now. What would you say are the most common aches and pains pregnant women experience?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, I would say the most common theme that drives expecting moms into our office is usually the lower back pain and sciatica, and sometimes neck pain. Other things that they’ll see very commonly are round ligament pain and pelvic pain. There’s something called the shoulder-hand syndrome, which kind of as the center of gravity on the expecting mom moves forward as the bump grows, the head will start to move forward to maintain the center of gravity. The forward head posture can change the alignment in the neck, and then you can get some irritation to the nerves that leave the neck and go into the arm. So, you can see neck, shoulder pain and numbness and tingling in the hands are common. But more commonly, you’re going to see the lower back pain, because obviously, a woman will gain anywhere from 20 to 35 pounds during a pregnancy, the shift of the center of gravity, anterior carrying extra weight and sometimes women will stop exercising, which can increase the amount of lower back pain and discomfort that they’ll see there.

So, all those things really come under the realm of providing chiropractic care but most importantly is the Webster Technique. The Webster Technique was specifically designed by Larry Webster to help expecting moms get through the pregnancy. Like I’ve said many times, all the research shows when the Webster Technique is applied correctly it usually results in shorter delivery times, and less need for interventions like Pitocin epidurals, and C-sections. You’ll see less pain during pregnancy, and shorter delivery times and those are the most important things that a lot of these moms are looking for. We definitely attract more of the natural, what I would call the crunchy moms to our office, because they’re looking to have more natural birth, and chiropractic just meshes up perfectly with their lifestyle, and really is a wonderful tool in assisting the moms to have an easier time during birth.

If a pregnant woman starts to experience back pain, what are some things she can do to manage it?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Keeping moving is important, so maintaining light exercise. You know, I’m a huge fan of prenatal yoga, and I always give a shout out to the Prenatal Yoga Center, every opportunity I get, because they’ve been wonderful in cross-referring patients to my office, and me sending people back to them.

There are tons of people out there who do prenatal massage and some of them have those drop tables where you can lie flat or you can do all the massage side lying. I always recommend making sure that they kind of specialize or have experience with prenatal massage before picking your massage therapist. Then of course, you can do some stretching at home as well.

But if you start to experience back pain, I always feel like the best natural option is seeing the chiropractor, getting those proper adjustments to realign the spine, get the pressure off the nerves and make sure that everything is lined up, because it’s going to support the mom. It’s going to support the baby. It’s going to enhance nerve system function and communication, which should make the delivery process easier. The great thing is that there’s no drugs and no surgery in chiropractic care. It’s all-natural pain relief by just gently adjusting and doing some Webster maneuvers and relaxing ligaments. A lot of times we get a lot of success with the moms helping with the lower back pain, sciatica and neck pain.

What causes leg pain or leg cramps, and what can be done to manage that pain?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: So, it’s really important to differentiate leg cramps from sciatica, because sciatica is pain that usually starts in the lower back and radiates down the leg, and most commonly if women are going to have cramping, it usually shows up in the legs. A lot of people, when they’re having leg cramps, will talk about doing the Epsom salt baths. They are something that’s very benign and can be done, just a warm to hot bath, no more than 15 minutes soaking in the Epson salt. Studies show that prenatal massages, specifically the lymphatic drainage can reduce swelling and cramping in the lower extremities. Generally, the prenatal massages are deemed safe for both the mom and the baby, but you still want to get an all clear from your healthcare provider before making the appointment.

Then, in addition to the increase in fluids while you’re pregnant, the weight of the uterus adds additional strain on the cardiovascular system. Your baby often can push on the inferior vena cava, that large drainage vein, which can slow circulation, making it harder to move fluid, and that can cause leg pain. So, when you’re pregnant, laying on your back is really not a great way to lay down. Most people want you sleeping on the left side because if you’re on your back, you’re not going to get proper venous drainage. Then in the third trimester, the uterus puts a lot more pressure on the lower extremities, making swelling even more pronounced in the legs. But when there’s the extra strain on the spine from the increased weight gain, then we can see increased misalignment where the vertebrae and the lumbar spine get out of alignment and start to irritate the lower nerves, and that can cause pain going down the legs, and that’s typically going to be the sciatic pain.

You need to differentiate the two, because the things that are going to benefit both are very different. So, it’s important to make sure that we know what we’re dealing with, and that’s why seeing your doctor, talking to your chiropractor and/or your OB-GYN is going to be very important if you’re getting pain. But the chiropractic techniques that we use are very safe on the expecting mom and the baby.

How does the Webster Technique help a pregnant woman avoid some of the aches and pains of pregnancy?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: When you’re applying the Webster Technique, it’s a very specific series of drops to align the pelvic girdle, align the lumbar spine, relax the uteral sacral ligament and relax the round ligament. There’s a lot of tension and stress that goes on with the pregnancy. The women get nervous and scared as they get closer to that, which puts them into sympathetic overdrive. So, chiropractic techniques can kind of help lower the tension in the ligaments. It can kind of relax a lot of the musculature. It can even relax and lower the sympathetic overdrive. The general resting tension of the nerve system can also be affected with these chiropractic techniques.

But the true benefits of the Webster Technique are, if applied correctly, it generally can shorten delivery time, it certainly alleviates pain and discomfort during the pregnancy by relaxing those ligaments and lining things up, and also aids in faster delivery times and less need for interventions. That’s pretty much why a lot of moms start the Webster Technique with us well before they have pain. So, seeing a chiropractor prior to and during pregnancy and even postpartum is going to be very important as far as development and recovery.

If someone is planning to become pregnant, how can receiving regular chiropractic care before pregnancy prepare their body and potentially limit some of the common aches and pains associated with pregnancy?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: That’s a really good question, too, but we always preach and teach that you should be under chiropractic care, whether you have pain or not. You also should be under chiropractic care as long as you have a spine. Anyone who has a spine needs to take care of it. Anyone who has teeth needs to brush them. We don’t brush and floss and see a dentist based on how much pain we have, right? No one wakes up on the morning of a dental appointment and says, “My teeth don’t hurt. I’m not going to go.” We understand that if we get our teeth checked, and we keep them clean, they’re going to last us a lifetime.

Keeping your spine healthy will make it last a lifetime by seeing a chiropractor, gently adjusting and realigning. Getting the pressure off the nerves enhances nerve system function. The healthier your nerve system is, and the faster it works, it’s kind of like running a computer on dialup internet versus a DSL line. The faster it works, the healthier you’re going to be, and the better the body performs. So, it’s truly about just optimizing the body’s nerve system.

The preparedness for birth comes from the Webster Technique, aligning the hips and pelvis. A quarter inch of spread from the sacroiliac joint is the difference between a complicated birth and a C-section versus when everything’s lined up and moving well, more likely to have that vaginal birth that a lot of the moms are looking for. So, the healthier you are going into the pregnancy, the healthier you are going to come out of it, and the faster you’re going to recover. So, chiropractic is important during pregnancy, maybe more important during pregnancy, but it’s really just part of your healthy lifestyle, not something that you should do in anticipation of this, that, or the other thing. You should always be keeping your spine and nerve system healthy by getting checked periodically by a chiropractor. It’s just that simple.

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