Wellness Osteo

Wellness Osteo

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Women's Health: Pregnancy Related Musculoskeletal Complaints

Osteo Wellness Richmond Carlton Pregnancy Pain Back Pain

Women’s Health: Pregnancy Related Musculoskeletal Complaints 

 

As the female body undergoes significant transformations throughout pregnancy, some women can experience pregnancy related aches and pains. While these conditions can occur in populations that are not pregnant, they are commonly reported in pregnant women.

 

 

The common conditions we will explore in this blog include: 

 

  1. Pelvic girdle pain:
  • Sacroiliac joint pain
  • Pubic symphysis joint pain
  1. Lumbar back pain
  2. Upper back and neck pain
  3. Carpal tunnel syndrome 
  4. Hip pain and bursitis 

 

  • Pelvic Girdle Pain

 

The term ‘pelvic girdle pain’ (PGP) refers to pain originating from the sacroiliac joints, the pubic symphysis joint, as well as the ligaments and muscles that support these joints.

 

PGP usually presents as low back, hip, and/or groin pain. Prolonged walking, sitting, and standing can be uncomfortable. Often single leg actions like putting on underwear, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of a car can be painful. 

 

 

  • Low back pain

 

Sometimes low back pain (LBP) and PGP can be confused. But with osteopathic assessment, we can help to determine if the pain is more likely coming from the vertebral joints rather than from the pelvic joints. As the female body transforms with pregnancy, something called ‘lumbar lordosis’ increases. This means the natural curve in the lower spine becomes exaggerated. This can cause additional pressure through the lumbar facet joints, discs, and surrounding structures. 

 

LBP commonly presents as pain in the low back region, sometimes with referred pain to the hips, groin, and into the legs. It can be aggravated by prolonged sitting, standing, and repetitive bending, twisting, and lifting. Some patients report pins and needles or numbness in the legs and feet too. 

 

 

  • Upper back and neck pain

 

Just as with LBP and the lumbar lordosis increasing, throughout pregnancy women can also experience an increased ‘thoracic kyphosis’. This means the mid and upper back natural curve becomes exaggerated. This increased kyphosis can pull on structures throughout the upper body and neck, causing muscle tightness and joint pain. 

 

Commonly with upper back and neck pain you might experience reduced range of motion in the mid back and neck, as well as painful points in muscles along the spine, shoulders, neck, and skull. Further, tension headaches and pins and needles in the arms and hands may also occur. 

 

 

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

 

Carpal tunnel syndrome refers to numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand due to compression of the median nerve within the ‘carpal tunnel’ – an anatomical area at the wrist. With pregnancy, hormonal changes increase fluid retention and swelling which can increase the pressure within the carpal tunnel. This increased pressure can affect the nerves causing the classic symptoms of numbness, tingling and pain in the hand. 

 

 

  • Hip pain and bursitis 

 

Sometimes hip pain in pregnant women can be referred pain from the low back or pelvic joints. But sometimes hip pain is just hip pain. This can be caused by trauma, excessive use and associated muscle tightening, as well as a change or increase in activity. Sometimes with hip pain people can experience bursitis which refers to inflammation of the bursa (sacs of fluid in and around joints designed to reduce friction). Additional pressure on the joints or unaccustomed activity can cause irritation to these bursa causing local inflammation and pain. 

 

Common symptoms of hip pain with bursitis include pain when lying on the affected side, pain to directly push on the outside of the hip, and pain and stiffness in the morning. 

 

 

So how do we manage all of these conditions?

 

For all of these complaints, appropriate management can only be determined with proper assessment. Osteopathic assessment includes taking a thorough history, examining your range of motion and function, and performing orthopaedic testing. Once a diagnosis is formed, we can start providing relief through hands-on treatment, prescribing targeted exercises, and providing advice on lifestyle changes that can help alleviate pain and improve your quality of life. 

 

It is important to remember sometimes signs and symptoms that appear as musculoskeletal complaints can stem from more serious pathologies. Especially with symptoms like headaches and pins and needles, it’s important to get advice from a trusted health professional instead of assuming your pain is due to joint stiffness or muscle tightness. 

 

For all of these pregnancy related complaints we’ve listed above, there are a number of strategies we can use to alleviate pain and improve your function. Each complaint should be managed on a case by case basis, however general advice includes:

 

  • Avoid aggravating activities or postures that make your pain worse
  • Perform appropriate strength and mobility exercises to improve joint stability and range of motion
  • Seek manual therapy to relieve muscle tension and improve joint mobility 
  • Wear garments such as pelvic support belts or wrist braces
  • Continue general exercise to keep the body moving 

 

As previously mentioned, this is general advice. The timing and appropriateness of therapeutic interventions depend on an individual’s complaint. We recommend seeing one of our osteopaths for an assessment and guided management. Our practitioners are experienced in and passionate about treating pregnancy related musculoskeletal aches and pains. We aim to improve joint mobility, reduce pain and inflammation, and get our patients back to doing what they love!