While pregnancy can be an exciting time for many, it is also a time of a lot of physical changes.
One of the first things you will notice as your pregnancy develops is your changing posture. As the baby grows, your posture and weight start to shift which can cause many women to experience discomfort as more pressure is being placed on joints, muscles and ligaments. In addition to the obvious changes, there are hormonal and circulation changes, as well as a shift to your internal organs.
Below is a list of the common complaints pregnant & post-natal women may experience:
Low Back Pain
As the baby gets bigger, the bulk of the weight will be carried on the front of your body, which pushes your centre of gravity forward. In order to compensate for this change, the normal curvature of the lower back becomes more exaggerated. This exaggeration can also cause a forward tilt of your pelvis to adjust to this shift of weight. Whilst these changes are completely normal and necessary, they can result in added pressure on the muscles, joints and ligaments around your lower back and pelvis. This could be a potential source of pain.
Shoulder, Upper back and Neck Pain
In addition to the exaggeration of the curvature of your lower back, you may also experience rounding of the upper back and shoulders as they try to compensate for the changes happening around your lower back and pelvis. Your heavier breasts will also create a forward pull which will cause your shoulders to slump forward. This new posture can place an additional stress to the joints and muscles that are trying to support your neck, upper back and shoulders. This can result in pain and stiffness around these areas. Whilst this posture is ongoing throughout pregnancy, it may also continue once your baby is born as you are consistently holding, feeding, looking down and picking up your baby.
Headaches in pregnancy can be common and for various different reasons such as posture, hormones, stress and fluid changes. Headaches can be secondary to the postural changes mentioned above which are placing extra pressure on your joints and muscles and the neck and shoulders. Headaches can also be hormonally linked as your hormones fluctuate throughout the various stages of pregnancy. Pregnancy can also be a stressful and sleepless time for some, which may result in the experience of headaches. Levels of fluid, such as lymphatic fluid, amniotic fluid or general fluid in your body, increase during pregnancy and may lead to fluid retention resulting in headaches.
Whilst experiencing headaches during pregnancy can be normal and well managed with Osteopathic treatment, it is also important to rule out any underlying conditions that may indicate further investigation.
Rib and Torso Pain
Rib and torso pain can be commonly experienced in pregnancy for a number of reasons. Firstly, as the baby grows, the ribs expand in order to accommodate your growing belly, which can initiate pain within the ribs, their surrounding joints and musculature.
To further accommodate the baby growing within your uterus, your organs will shift safely within your abdomen around the baby, which means your organs will push up towards your chest, impacting on your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscular dome that is found along your rib cage and is the primary muscle responsible for breathing. That might explain why you are so out of breath when growing a human!
Another aspect to consider is the baby’s position inside your abdomen. Whether your baby is tending to lie on one side more than the other, poke their feet into your side or have their bottom right up under the rib cage, the position of the baby can influence pain around the ribs and torso.
Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) can be commonly experienced in pregnancy. As the pelvis tilts forward throughout the pregnancy, hormonal changes in your pregnancy can also influence the stability of your pelvis.
Increased levels of the hormones oestrogen and relaxin allow the ligaments and structures supporting your joints to relax as your body changes to prepare for birth. The joints that hold together the bones of your pelvis gradually loosen, which impacts your joint stability. As the joints in the front and back of your pelvis can be affected, the pelvic pain you experience can be felt around your groin, your sit bones or both!
These changes, in addition to the weight of the baby and it’s growth in your reproductive organs, can also affect your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles have an important role in staying strong and elastic to keep up with the demands of your pregnancy and labour.
What can we do to help?
Just like your ante-natal check ups, it is important to check in with your Osteopath or Remedial Massage Therapist. Whilst some women may just need to pop in every few weeks, others may need to pop in more frequently depending on their pain. If you are not sure, make an appointment with your practitioner and we can form a plan for you and your changing body. Hands-on therapy is a safe and effective way to treat musculoskeletal pain in pregnancy – we can also give you tips, tricks and exercises to keep you going between your appointments.
Our Osteopaths and Remedial Massage Therapists have a particular interest in treating pregnant women.