Along with the “joys of pregnancy” can sometimes come the not so joyful pain and dysfunction associated with it. Some women experience low back pain, sacroiliac dysfunction, sciatica (pain, numbness or tingling down the leg) and even carpal tunel syndrome. Many women feel these are natural and expected conditions that come along with any pregnancy. What they don’t know is that physical therapy in many cases can reduce these symptoms.

During pregnancy a woman’s body releases a hormone called ‘relaxin’. This hormone is very important and necessary because it “relaxes” the ligaments in order for the pelvis to spread and allow the baby to pass through. Unfortunately, these relaxed ligaments can mean less stability in the joints. This, along with increased body weight and change in center of gravity, can cause pain. Through therapeutic exercise, range of motion, soft tissue mobilization, postural and body mechanics education, women can decrease their pain level and improve the quality of their activities of daily living.

Many women bring home from the hospital more than just a new baby. Post-partum problems can include sacroiliac pain and dyssemetry, diastasis recti (separation of the rectus abdominus muscle), low, mid or upper back pain, neck pain, trunk weakness and urinary incontinence. These are conditions which can be addressed by physical therapy. The question of when a woman can begin exercising after the birth of her baby is a difficult one to answer. The American College of Gynecologist states “prepregnancy exercise routines should be resumed gradually based on a woman’s physical capability”. (1) There are benefits of performing basic exercises within the 1st six weeks after birth.

“Benefits include increase weight loss (often as much as 8.6 pounds), improvement or elimination of diastasis recti, making the abdomen more stable, reduction or elimination of lower back pain, improvement of energy level and a significant decrease in anxiety, depression and mood disturbances.” (2) These initial exercises might include teaching proper body mechanics to a woman who has delivered her baby by caesarian or instruction in diaphragmatic breathing. Exercises can be taught to strengthen the pelvic floor and reduce urinary incontinence as well as gentle exercises for the abdomen and trunk. Physical therapy can identify and treat sacroiliac dysfunction and low back pain. Women who breast feed their babies are also at risk to develop upper back and neck pain as well. Physical therapy can help to treat and even prevent these potential problems.

If you are pregnant or post-partum and would like any more information or are experiencing any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor about a referral to physical therapy or give us a call.  Our website explains our philosophy and client expectations for any type of physical therapy program.

References: 1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (1994). Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. 2. Creager, C. (2002). Returning to Form. Advance, Vol. 13, No. 2., 35-37.

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