For many women in the Des Moines area, pregnancy and back pain seem to go hand in hand.

About 10% of women report pain so severe it affects their day-to-day activities, yet only 21% of women with back pain seek any medical attention.

As we care for more women before and during their pregnancy, many have asked us…

Why Is Back Pain Common In Pregnancy and What Can I Do About It?

As you may have heard on sports news, one of the devastating injuries feared by athletes is the “terrible triad” the combination of a torn ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus of the knee. Often requiring surgery, this injury can knock male and female athletes off the field or court for at least six months or more, or force them into retirement.

In pregnancy, there is also a terrible triad.  It is not a surgical emergency jeopardizing a 4-year contract, but it is unpleasant just the same.

The Terrible Triad of Pregnancy

1. Weight gain: Predominately occurring in the third trimester, women will naturally gain weight as the developing baby adds 3.5 pounds and 5.5 inches of growth during this phase. The growth of the baby also compresses the diaphragm and ribs, making a full inhalation seem impossible. Swollen ankles, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and indigestion round out the consequences of weight gain in the third trimester.

2. Structural shifts in alignment: As the center of gravity for mother shifts forward and upward with her weight gain, the weight distribution to her joints changes. The new postures and stresses to her knees, hips, and low back can create changes to her entire spine. The lumbar spine and hip joints are most commonly challenged. Gait alterations may occur as well, altering the load on her spine and increasing the incidence of strain/sprain injuries to her spinal segments and supporting structures (Ohm, 2013).

3. Ligament changes due to hormones: The hormones relaxin and elastin are critical to allowing the pelvis to successfully deliver the fetus.  Their function as the name suggests is to “relax” and create an “elastic” effect on not only the ligaments and structures of the pelvis, but the entire body. While integral to a successful birth outcome, these powerful hormones can cause shifts in alignment and gait alterations in the third trimester.  Mom may notice an increase prevalence of turning her ankle and changes in her overall posture as her mid-back and neck compensate for her shifts in weight.

Each of the above listed factors cause a decrease in normal structure, function and stability of the spine.

The combination of these three factors adds to the likelihood of pelvic distortion or misalignment, intra-uterine constraint, and low back or hip pain.

Pelvic distortion relates to a change in the normal alignment of the pelvis.

Intra-uterine constraint refers to any changes in sacral positioning that could interfere with normal positioning or movement of the baby.

Low back pain has been reported in 42.5% (Clapp, 1993) to 90% (Revelli, 1992) of pregnant women. “There are no known contraindications to chiropractic spinal and pelvic adjustments throughout pregnancy other than those affecting any non-gravid (non-pregnant) individual (Ohm, 2013).”

What Can You Do?

If you have a core structural problem with your spine, the increase in hormones and growing weight of your baby can exacerbate any back pain or collateral damage you previously had before becoming pregnant.

All of a sudden, simple movements you had no problem with before, like reaching, bending, and twisting, become difficult, and in some cases painful.

Chiropractic care can be extremely effective during pregnancy, but the doctor needs to be highly aware of the changes in the spine and ligaments as they deliver the chiropractic adjustment. The same adjustment given to a woman before pregnancy and in her third trimester may have different outcomes if the doctor is not familiar with prenatal chiropractic care. This is why BOTH Drs. Megan and Adam have had post-graduate training on how to properly care for women during pregnancy.

Is Chiropractic For A Pregnant Woman Safe?

Absolutely and chiropractic researchers have done a great job compiling the following evidence as to why pregnant moms may benefit from chiropractic care…

  • Reduces the rates of Cesarean section after onset of labor OR during a premature birth
  • Helps to properly align the pelvis for the birthing process
  • Reduces the need for forceful extraction
  • Increases baby’s room in the womb to grow and develop
  • Optimizes baby’s position in the womb 
  • Controls symptoms of nausea
  • Reduces environmental stress
  • Reduces stress on mom’s vital organs
  • Increases baby’s health and well-being
  • Makes pregnancy a much more comfortable experience

So, when should you start care?

The best time to start is before pregnancy.

If you are already pregnant, the next best time to start is NOW!

Decades of clinical experience and research reveal chiropractic care during pregnancy leads to a safer and easier birth for both mother and baby.