Pregnancy can be a time of energy, of radiance, of that inner glow. But for many women, it is also a time of discomfort and even pain, caused by the changes taking place as their body nurtures a new life.
So what is it about pregnancy that causes these symptoms? There are three main changes that happen to the body that can be the source of pain or discomfort.
- The change in posture as the increasing weight of the baby moves the centre of gravity
- The relaxation of ligaments as the pregnancy hormones prepare the body for birth
- The growing baby’s bulk putting pressure on the body
These factors can cause pain in the back, pelvis, hips, feet, neck and head.
Even the slightest changes in the pregnant body can aggravate old injuries, which sometimes re-appear in pregnancy. These changes can also exacerbate the strains of a less than perfect posture, from everyday activities like sitting at a keyboard, driving, or standing for long periods.
The relaxation of the ligaments around the birth canal can put pressure on the pelvis, causing pain and discomfort, and muscle tension in the upper back and neck can lead to headaches.
The good news is that osteopathy can treat and significantly relieve much of this pain. There are several osteo techniques that are used to alleviate pregnancy symptoms.
- Gentle, but firm, soft tissue techniques, along with and stretching, to inhibit the muscles and articulate the joints.
- Trigger point therapy – applying pressure in very specific spots to release muscle tension.
- Articulation and harmonics – this is about getting joints moving freely. Articulation is moving the joints to increase their mobility– just as opening and closing a creaky door will make for a smoother movement. Harmonics is a technique of rocking the joints, again to ease movement.
- Traction is gentle pulling to isolate and intensify the stretch to a particular muscle or joint.
- Tailored pilates programmes can help avoid injuries and discomfort as the body goes through the changes of pregnancy, and is especially helpful in increasing suppleness in the pelvic area. Pilates may include exercises tailored around optimal foetal positioning, aiming to position the baby for a trouble free labour and giving women the best possible chance of returning to exercise and pelvic stability afterwards.
- taping of the back or your bump may provide you with some extra relief
These techniques can be used as a preventative measure, right from the start of pregnancy, or can be started if and when pain occurs. They are most effective in the first and second trimester – once the pregnancy advances to its final stages, the treatment is less likely to give relief.
Many women find that these treatments deliver results very quickly, and some need a few sessions to get results.
I encourage all pregnant women to consider osteo treatment as part of their pregnancy, to make it as pain-free a time as possible.
Dr. Rebecca Farthing is a registered/qualified osteopath who uses these techniques in her practice ‘Total Balance’ to help women enjoy a pain and discomfort free pregnancy.