During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes frequent changes biochemically and structurally which can create postural strain, neck and back pain. A brief look at the anatomy of the spine provides insight as to why chiropractic adjustments can facilitate a healthier, more comfortable pregnancy.
The vertebral column is a strong, flexible rod composed of a series of bones, vertebrae, which enclose and protect the spinal cord, support the head, and serve as an attachment for the ribs and muscles of the back. This “spine” can rotate and move anteriorly, posteriorly and laterally. The vertebral column shows four normal curves which increase it’s strength, helps maintain balance in the upright position, absorbs shock, and helps protect the column from a fracture.
The spinal cord, which courses down the center of this column conveys sensory impulses from the peripheral nerves to the brain and conducts impulse the brain to all of the peripheral nerves. When an electrical impulse is stimulated in the brain, it travels a neural pathway in the spinal cord. Misalignment of this vertebral column can create pressure on the spinal nerves, irritating the surrounding tissue and causing impeded nerve flow, discomfort and pain.
Over the course of a forty week gestation, a mother’s weight gain will ideally reach somewhere between 30-40 lbs. This increase in weight can create spinal misalignment and postural distortions which in turn affect nerves, muscles, and mobility of joints. As the bulk of this weight is deposited in the abdominal area, the mother’s center of gravity shifts forward. To compensate, the natural curves of the spine, particularly in the lumbar region, become exaggerated causing “low back pain.”
The hips may also expand laterally to help stabilize the body, putting pressure on the sacroiliac joints. The hormones of pregnancy cause muscles, ligaments, cartilage (such as the symphysis pubis), and even bones to “soften” and become more pliable. Pelvic bones “slip” and can become more easily displaced and fixated. Also, individual round ligaments attach to pelvic bones and then to the uterus as it enlarges with the growth of the baby. When these ligaments are strained or torqued, as with sudden movement or “rolling over,” they can cause even more discomfort for the pregnant mother.