How to relieve pregnancy back pain
Back pain during pregnancy is a real drag, but osteopath Dr Stephen Sandler knows how you can relieve it
More than 80% of women get back pain of some form or another during pregnancy, so you are not alone if you are suffering.
What causes back pain in pregnancy?
During pregnancy the body secretes a hormone called relaxin that softens the ligaments holding the pelvic bones together and allows room for the baby to descend into the pelvis on its way to the world. Sometimes a joint gets stuck causing painful muscle spasms or even sciatica if the sciatic nerve is trapped. Most back pain is caused by muscle spasms protecting overstrained spinal or pelvic joints.
Is osteopathic treatment safe when pregnant?
Every validated school of osteopathy now has an Expectant Mothers Clinic. The only caveat is if you have a history of recurrent early trimester miscarriage. Then, any undue stress to the pelvis is probably best avoided, and so in these specific cases we advise against treatment. Normally osteopaths can treat right up to labour.
What does an osteopathic treatment involve?
Work to the muscles using massage-like techniques and gentle stretches, as well as gentle manipulation and mobilisation techniques, should soon have you feeling easier. Partners are encouraged into the treatment room where we can teach them massage techniques that can be done at home to make the pregnancy and birth a shared experience.
However, it's an uphill struggle. As you get more pregnant, you weigh more, yet the joints still get looser. This is why some women need osteopathic treatment throughout their pregnancy.
Is there anything else that will help relieve the pain?
Pillows in bed to prevent you from rolling over can help, as can sacroiliac binders or belts. There are a lot of products out there sold for pregnancy back pain that are not very helpful but an osteopath should be able to guide you to the correct binder if that is what you need. We encourage swimming, yoga or pilates as ways of gently getting the muscles moving safely.
Will the back pain go away after giving birth?
Post-natal you would usually be checked at six weeks. You may still need one or two treatments to get you back on track to a full recovery. The majority of women recover well with no back issues to bother them. Some osteopaths, particularly if they are trained in paediatric or cranial osteopathic techniques, even offer a post-natal check for the new baby. It can be very effective after long or difficult labours when the baby may have issues settling into a sleep pattern or feeding pattern due to minor strains and moulding issues in the bones of the head and face. It is very gentle, often immediate and effective, and can be very reassuring for new mums.
Dr Stephen Sandler is consultant osteopath at The Portland Hospital in London.