Spinal Health and Pregnancy
Pregnancy can wreak havoc on your neck, shoulders, back, hips, legs, and feet.
Most women who go through pregnancy are aware of the importance of good nutrition while carrying their baby. But many are not aware, or ignore, the vital role that good posture and simple exercises can play in guarding against pain and, in some cases, long-term and debilitating joint and muscle injuries.
Pregnant women gain an average of 25 to 35 pounds. This additional weight, in tandem with the trauma and bodily changes of pregnancy, places an enormous amount of stress on the musculoskeletal system.
Close to 50% of women experience some sort of back pain during their pregnancy. The pain is most prevalent during the latter stages of the pregnancy, when the baby begins to descend toward the hips, placing pressure on organs and nerves. In many cases, this can be avoided by practicing good posture and performing simple, safe exercises.
A woman's center of gravity almost immediately begins to shift forward to the front of the pelvis during pregnancy. This increases stress on the joints. As the woman's weight is projected even farther forward, her lower back curvature actually increases. This places additional stress on the discs in the lumbar region.
Following are a few suggestions from the American Chiropractic Association:
- Anything that doesn't involve jerking or bouncing movements is considered a safe exercise for pregnant women. This would include walking, swimming, and stationary cycling. Make sure you exercise on a stable surface and wear shoes with non-slip soles. Ensure that your heart rate doesn't exceed 140 beats per minute.
- Try to restrict your exercise routines to no more than 15 minutes.
- Stop immediately if you experience dizziness, nausea, weakness, blurred vision, increased swelling, vaginal bleeding, or heart palpitations.
- Bend from your knees, not your waist, when picking up small children or objects. Avoid any twisting or turning motions during a lift.
- Folic acid supplements‚ at least 400 micrograms (mcg) a day‚ before and during pregnancy can decrease the risk of neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida. But check with your doctor before taking this or any other vitamin or herbal supplement.
- Get plenty of rest. Don't let the demands of work and family life put you and your baby at risk. Pamper yourself, and ask for help if you need it. Take a nap if you are tired, or lie down and elevate your feet for a few moments when you need a break. If you work behind a computer or at a desk during the day, ensure that it is designed ergonomically. Take frequent breaks.
- Take the pressure off your lower back when sleeping by lying on your side with a pillow between your knees. Lying on your left side is ideal because it allows unobstructed blood flow, and helps your kidneys flush waste from your body.
- Chiropractic care during your pregnancy is considered safe and can help you manage pain better without the use of drugs or surgical treatment, as well as gain valuable insight into nutrition, ergonomics, and exercise.
- Following childbirth, chiropractic care can help alleviate joint problems incurred during the pregnancy, as well as provide relief from muscle tension, headaches, rib discomfort, and shoulder problems.