How does pregnancy affect the spine?
Having a baby is exciting for you and your family, however, for the woman carrying the growing new bundle of joy, the changes that happen during those 9 months can take a toll on her body. One of the most affected areas during those 9 months is the spine. Between hormonal changes, weight changes, a growing fetus, and center of gravity changes, the spine is susceptible to many different aches, pains and even injuries.
It has been reported that nearly 50% of all pregnant women experience back pain during their pregnancy and 50%-70% of women experience back pain during their labor (1-3).
The structural changes that occur during pregnancy contribute to low back pain that many women experience. As a woman progresses through her pregnancy there are changes to her physique because of the continual growth of the baby. The center of gravity changes which effects the lumbar and sacroiliac regions of the spine. Traction, pressure, or the stretching of different tissues and structures in the pelvis and pelvic floor can cause referred pain and secondary muscle spasms (2). As the fetus grows the weight is projected forward causing an increase in the curve in the low back adding more stress to discs and other structures that make up the lumbar spine. As the hormones estrogen, progesterone and relaxin increase during gestation, especially in the third trimester, the increase in these hormones brings about hypermobility and a decrease in stability of the lumbar, sacroiliac and pelvic joints (4). Direct pressure of the fetus on the lumbosacral nerve roots may also be a cause of pain.
What does the research say about women who seek chiropractic care
during their pregnancy?
A retrospective chart review of 400 pregnancies and deliveries investigated the relationship between pregnancy and low back pain (2). Findings indicated relief from back pain during the pregnancy in 84% of the cases. The authors noted that a chiropractic adjustment may significantly decrease the incidence of "back labor." The relative risk of back labor was almost 3 times greater if back pain was experienced during the pregnancy (2). There is also a relationship between low back pain during pregnancy and prolonged labor and delivery process (5, 6).
First time mothers who seek chiropractic care have on average 25% shorter labor time, where women who have had multiple pregnancies have 31% shorter labor times (5, 6)
1. Phillips C.J., Meyer J.J. Chiropractic care, including craniosacral therapy, during pregnancy: a static-group comparison of obstetric interventions during labor and delivery. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1995;18(8):525–529. [PubMed]
2. Diakow P.R.P., Gadsby T.A., Gadsby J.B., Gleddie J.G., Leprich D.J., Scales A.M. Back pain during pregnancy and labor. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1991;14(2):116–118. [PubMed]
3. Berg G., Hammer M., Moller-Nielsen J., Linden U., Thorblad J. Low back pain in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1988;71:71–75. [PubMed]
4. DiMarco D.B. The female patient: enhancing and broadening the chiropractic encounter with pregnant and postpartum patients. J Am Chiropr Assoc. 2003;40(11):18–24.
5. J.M. Fallon. Textbook on chiropractic & pregnancy. Arlington, VA: International Chiropractic Association; 1994: 52, 109.
6. Fallon J.M. Chiropractic and pregnancy: a partnership for the future. ICA Int Rev Chiropr. 1990;46(6):39–42.