I apologize for my brief hiatus folks! Life happened (in the form of vacays, colds, an abscess for the baby, pure utter tiredness, etc.) and I couldn’t find the time to post. Hopefully, my new EASY button from Staples works this time around (I returned the last one) and I can get back to consistently posting.
Anywho, back in February I wrote about the benefits of massage both during and after pregnancy. If you missed it, you can read it here. Well, in continuation of the alternative therapies discussion I thought I would share my experience with the Chiropractor.
With my first pregnancy I never once thought about visiting the chiropractor. Not even after I started to experience what would eventually be diagnosed as sciatica did this option even occur to me. Instead, I made an appointment with my Ob/gyn to discuss this new pregnancy symptom. She sent me home with nothing more than “rest up” and “it gets better” and “wear sneakers with good arch support”. She never mentioned a chiropractor. But with my second pregnancy, I had heard from several moms that chiropractic care helped them to better manage their lower back pain toward the end of pregnancy. When I started to experience the all too familiar symptoms of sciatica again, I knew I would be visiting the chiropractor. I was willing to give it a try. After all, I figured going to the chiropractor couldn’t hurt any worse than the pain shooting down my leg at the time. Sciatica is figuratively and literally a pain in the a**!!!
After making certain that my insurance would cover the visits (they did) I selected Dr. Noel Steinle of Advanced Chiropractic and Wellness Center. She actually specializes in chiropractic care for women and has treated many pregnant patients. For my first visit, there were no X-rays taken (for obvious reasons) so Dr. Noel relied on my description of the pain. She explained that “as the baby grows and moves in different positions the sciatic nerve, which runs down the spine and into the pelvis and upper leg area, can become compressed. Typically it causes shooting pains or even numbness in the lower back, buttocks and back of the thighs.” In my case, I could walk or lay in a certain position and feel a constant pain much like a leg cramp but deep in my right butt cheek where I couldn’t reach. Sometimes it hurt so bad I couldn’t lift my leg or apply any pressure which made walking or driving difficult. It was crazy! I never felt anything quite like it.
Since I was pregnant, Dr. Noel wanted to keep things to a minimum and figure out what would work best. She had me lay on my belly (my bump wasn’t that large so it wasn’t uncomfortable) onto what she referred to as a “drop table”. With a few loud clicks and pressure from her on my back the table dropped a few inches in the pelvic area. She also applied pressure to my lower back between my hip and buttocks. I would say the entire session was about 15min. There was no pain or discomfort at all. Dr. Noel asked me to return in two days. I thought it was my imagination but by bedtime I already noticed a difference. And by the time I returned for the follow-up appointment I no longer had any pain. She did another adjustment just like the first. Then told me I only needed to come back if I started to have more pain or discomfort. So unlike popular belief, chiropractors do not put everyone on a never ending treatment plan. Thankfully, my sciatica never returned. PRAISE GOD! I did however return to Dr. Noel for subsequent adjustments for general lower back pain later in my pregnancy. And again within two sessions I was good to go.
I REALLY appreciated Dr. Noel AFTER I had Carter and noticed that every morning my lower back was killing me. I attributed it to carrying him all the time and new positioning while nursing. My posture had also taken a hit after all the weight of pregnancy. Since I was no longer pregnant I got a full workup with X-rays right in the office. Dr. Noel diagnosed me with lumbar hyperlordosis. A big word that essentially meant that my lower back was arched more than normal due to stress or extra weight. This causes muscle pain and spasms. In order to treat it Dr. Noel did a series of spinal manipulation techniques. And she asked that I stretch at home. She specifically recommended a hip flexor stretch (similar to a lunge) where you are on one knee, with your hips over the knee on the floor and your other leg in front of you with the knee centered over the foot. Google it for a picture. You gently move your hips forward until you feel a stretch extending from the inner hip to your thigh. Then alternate to the other side. The other stretch was lying on my back and bringing my knees to my chest and then hugging them. Stretching straight out and bringing the knees back in again. You repeat that motion for about 10 reps. And again after two adjustments along with my stretching homework I had some much needed relief. I only returned to the office as needed. Pretty simple treatments with tremendous benefits to me.
The American Pregnancy Association states that “there are no known contraindications for chiropractic care throughout pregnancy.” In fact all licensed and certified chiropractors are trained to work with pregnant patients. Some can receive additional specialized education in prenatal and postnatal care. APA lists the potential benefits of chiropractic care in pregnancy as 1. Maintaining overall health 2. Controlling nausea 3. Relieving neck, back or joint paint 4. Reducing the time of labor and delivery and 5. Prevention of cesarean deliveries. It is widely accepted that spine and pelvic alignment helps the entire body work more effectively.
In doing my research for this post I also had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jeffrey Elhoff, a chiropractor who has been practicing in Lenox, SD for 34 years. I asked him about the safety of chiropractic care during pregnancy and the most common complaints from his pregnant patients. He gave feedback on the popular Webster technique and discussed at home maintenance during and after pregnancy. He also had a few tips on selecting a chiropractor and what to expect in your treatment plan.
In our chat, Dr. Elhoff shared that as the fetus grows and hormones fluctuate and loosen ligaments, pregnant women experience a great deal of lower lumbar and hip problems as well as postural lordosis. Chiropractic care can help relieve the symptoms commonly associated with these issues. The only restrictions being the exclusion of x-rays and electro-therapy as these can be harmful to the baby. In his office, most pregnant patients complain of low back and hip pain and sometimes neck pain. Most often, these patients are in their third trimester but he commonly treats patients throughout their pregnancy. While each case is unique “two to three sessions once per week results in significant improvement after which time treatment can be on an as needed basis,” says Dr. Elhoff. Post pregnancy patients typically complain of neck and shoulder issues that result from breast feeding postures, fatigue and tension. Rather than long term treatment plans Dr. Elhoff prefers his patients follow a regimen of “ at home exercises that include lower back stretches as well as staying active even if it is only walking a few times a week.” Hot packs, heating pads and warm soaks can also help to relax tight muscles. He highly recommends that significant others get involved as well. He usually demonstrates a chair exercise for his pregnant patients for fast relief. While sitting backwards in a chair and leaning forward, light pressure and/or massage are applied to the lumbosacral area (also known as “the eyes of the back”) for about 4-5min. Coincidentally, this is also an exercise that many women are taught during child birth class as a relaxation technique if they are lucky enough to experience contractions that radiate in their back. (read: sarcasm)
Once you’ve done your research and decide to give chiropractic care a try, Dr. Elhoff recommends the following tips:
- Start with referrals from family/friends/organizations (people you trust)
- Call/Visit to ask questions about the providers experience and the expectations for your first visit
- Ensure that anyone you consider has experience (beyond initial education) working with pregnant patients
- Check your states Chiropractic Regulation & Licensing Board for any disciplinary actions; AND
- Always verify insurance benefits before the first visit
Overall, rapport and experience are the prevailing factors. A well-trained chiropractor will ensure that you are comfortable and will opt for techniques that apply the least pressure to the abdomen in order to protect the baby. As always, consult with your Ob/Gyn or midwife to discuss the best options for your circumstances.
Well there you have it! My perspective plus a few expert opinions. Have you given chiropractic care a try? How was your experience? If you haven’t and you plan on it let me know if it works for you as well. After my successful results I am all in and all for it now! Im always recommending it to others. Hopefully this post encourages you to give it a try too. There is no need to be in pain and uncomfortable throughout pregnancy when there are relatively low risk and low intervention solutions available!