I saw a lovely lady in clinic today who was suffering with symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), which had been bothering her since she was just 16 weeks along in her pregnancy (she’s now nearing her due date). This is quite a common reason for people coming to see me in clinic, so let’s talk about pelvic girdle pain and how a chiropractor can help you.
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) is common, but not normal, and as anyone will tell you, being in pain can really sap the joy out of your pregnancy. Symphysis pubis dysfunction is now broadly categorised as PGP- an umbrella term for all pain in the pelvic area which could include the lower back, abdomen, hips and thighs. PGP can cause back, hip and groin pain, disrupt your sleeping and affect your walking, amongst other issues. It’s really not fun! Just to complicate matters further, SPD can affect you at any time during your pregnancy, and sometimes even after giving birth (if not managed appropriately). Needless to say, this can cause physical discomfort and emotional distress so it is important to seek help early on- the sooner treatment begins, the sooner you’ll feel better.
Pelvic girdle pain simply means pain in the joints of the pelvic girdle, including the two sacroiliac joints at the back of your pelvis and the symphysis pubis joint at the front of your pelvis. Dysfunction within the pelvic girdle can affect the pelvic floor (the basket of muscles which hang from the bones of our pelvis), and if the pelvic bones are rotated or dysfunctional, the muscles don’t hang (or function) correctly, affecting spreading of the pelvic floor muscles and symmetrical dilation of the cervix during labour. This can lead to a difficult birth process for both mum and baby, but fortunately if good care has been taken to protect the pelvic girdle from additional strain and trauma, most women with PGP can have a normal vaginal birth. If you are concerned about the birth process, do discuss this with your practitioner, midwife or GP.
SPD can worsen as the baby increases in weight, as a result of postural changes as pregnancy advances, and resultant changes in the body’s centre of gravity. During pregnancy, our body releases a hormone called relaxin which softens our ligaments (which are like strong elastic bands which connect our joints)- this is to allow the baby to pass through the pelvis during birth, and normally lax ligaments in the pelvis during pregnancy do not cause an issue, however uneven movement in the pelvic joints (often termed “misalignment”) or imbalance in the muscles can cause irritation to the joints of the pelvis, resulting in pain.
To a chiropractor there are numerous other issues in the pelvis that can cause PGP without it being SPD (Gosh, that’s a lot of abbreviations!) so it’s important to rule out other possible causes before working on a diagnosis of SPD.
It’s hard to say… the research in this area is largely inconclusive when it comes to identifying risk factors for developing pelvic girdle pain, but we do know one of the major reasons for developing back pain in pregnancy and having difficulties during labour is poor musculoskeletal health in the mother. Why? Well, a job that involves a lot of sitting down and little exercise out of work can mean that the tone and activity in the muscles that stabilise the pelvis (such as the abdominals, pelvic floor muscles and the gluteal muscles in the buttocks) is reduced, and they struggle to tolerate additional stress during pregnancy which can lead to ongoing discomfort.
Around 20% of pregnant women will develop some form of pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy and we know that other risk factors include a history of pelvic or lower back pain (both during pregnancy and when not pregnant). The good news is that whilst 1-2 % of patients may have persistent pain one year after giving birth, in 93% of cases, the symptoms of PGP settle within the first 3 months post delivery.
Pregnant patients require a gentle, drug-free alternative for treating their discomfort and so seeking chiropractic care is a logical choice as it is a safe and effective treatment option, not only for treatment of pelvic girdle pain but also other musculoskeletal problems that may arise during pregnancy. Not only that, but it can help avoid a difficult labour, may mean you can stay at work longer and can reduce long-term disability.
Chiropractic treatment doesn’t just involve manual adjustments of the spine (chiropractic care is SO much more than that). We use numerous gentle techniques during treatments including soft tissue work, fascial release, acupuncture, exercises, postural advice (including optimal foetal positioning) and perhaps most importantly, we work with you to ensure you understand your condition and know how to manage it. Chiropractic treatment is recommended for pelvic girdle pain by the Pelvic Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy- you can read their guidance on PGP here.
In the case of our patient, we adjusted the sacroiliac joints and pubic symphysis, but in addition we also adjusted the thoracic and lumbar spine, and released the diaphragm and psoas muscles in the abdomen as we know that these abdominal muscles are key contributors to pelvic pain. Remember- only a fool treats where the pain is, so as chiropractors we have to make sure that all factors contributing to the pain have been addressed! Our patient also went away with some kinesiology tape on her pelvis for support- more about that here.
Yes- there are some simple exercises that you can do at home to help alleviate discomfort. In addition to giving you exercises we also advise you on ways to move that will help protect your pelvis and avoid aggravating the condition. Always speak to your practitioner to determine if an exercise is appropriate before attempting it. All the exercises we provide our patients are bespoke to them based on the results of their examination.
Sometimes a pelvic belt can offer relief, particularly when you’re up and moving around. We prefer to use kinesiology tape to help our pregnant patients as this provides support to the structures without limiting movement.
We’ll also be running some kinesiology tape during pregnancy workshops periodically throughout the year, so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter and follow our facebook page to keep up to date with these events.
Are you having a baby? There’s often a lot of talk about how hard childbirth is for mums (FYI- you might find this helpful!) Whilst this is undeniable, it’s also a physically exhausting, strenuous task for baby too and we know that babies and children are just as likely to experience pain as adults.
Fortunately, children have an incredible capacity to recover from these stresses, and generally respond incredibly quickly with the correct care. So how can chiropractic help? Chiropractic care can promote the relaxation and release of restrictions and held patterns in body structures and is incredibly gentle (the amount of pressure used is no more than you would use to check if a tomato is
ripe!) This is mainly because a baby’s spine is already so supple that very little pressure is required to have an effect.
The care we provide to children at Acorn Health is incredibly gentle and incorporates elements of sacro-occipital technique, cranial work, developmental exercises and other techniques, depending on what is required for your child!
– Breastfeeding problems
– Sleeping problems
– Feeding problems
– Strains that may have occured during birth
– Delayed development
These symptoms may be caused by stress on the child’s body systems caused by:
– Constraint or restriction whilst in the womb (common in multiple births)
– The birth process
– Falls and accidents
– Modern lifestyles (slouching, use of mobile phones and iPads, heavy schoolbags, lack of exercise…) For more on this, please visit this blog.
We want mum and dad to be involved too! It’s not just how we help your little one that will be beneficial, it’s the tools, tips and techniques you recieve during the examintaion that help too. From exercises to help with balance and coordination, to positioning techniques that can help you avoid “flat head” syndrome, we want to give you the tools you need to grow your tiny little
acorn into a strong, healthy oak!
To book a Little Acorn appointment, please ring us on 01243 379693 or book online here.