Many expecting and new mothers experience pain and discomfort throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period. While complaints like low back pain, neck and upper back pain, sciatica, and even carpal tunnel syndrome are common, they are not NORMAL and should not be simply “waited out”. Physical therapy is an excellent resource for managing the pain and changes associated with pregnancy.
What is our approach?
For pregnancy and postpartum physical therapy, we perform a thorough musculoskeletal and functional movement assessment; we also consider the unique context of the physical changes and new risk factors that accompany pregnancy and birth. We take a full history of symptoms, both current and prepartum, to better understand the whole picture. Physical therapy can effectively address pain, movement dysfunction, and functional limitation – from issues prior to pregnancy, body changes associated with pregnancy, and the often traumatic process of birth. The focus is on patient education and empowerment – our goal is to provide tools and strategies to minimize pain and optimize function… we want to keep you involved in YOUR desired activities. Physical therapy can also address pregnancy-specific issues including diastasis rectus (abdominal separation) and pelvic pain.
Who can benefit?
Individuals with the following
- Pain (including neck and upper back pain, low back pain, hip and pelvic pain)
- Nerve conditions including sciatica and carpal tunnel syndrome
- History of c-section
- History of traumatic birth
- Difficulty or discomfort with basic baby care (including lifting, holding/carrying, breastfeeding, pushing a stroller, etc).
- Limitation, fear, or lack of confidence with regular activities, household chores, or work
- Limitation, fear, or lack of confidence with return to exercise
What it is? / How does it work?
The body physically changes during pregnancy – the pelvis widens, the belly protrudes, and the center of mass shifts forward. A mother’s sense of stability, center of balance, and overall movement mechanics all change. Hormonal changes contribute to increased ligamentous laxity, especially in the low back and pelvis, which can increase stress and pain in these regions. Postural changes can also contribute to pain in the hips, upper back, neck, and shoulders as well. Hormones can also trigger inflammatory changes leading to increased swelling, gestational diabetes or hypertension, and even carpal tunnel syndrome.
Physical therapy, including hands-on treatment like soft tissue and joint mobilization, can help minimize pain. Patient education and corrective exercises can assist with improved balance, posture, and ergonomics.
These factors are equally important AFTER birth. Typical postpartum care includes 1-2 follow up visits with a healthcare provider, usually within the first 6 weeks postpartum. At that point, most moms receive clearance for a full return to “normal activity” – and they often have no idea where to begin! Physical therapists can be an EXCELLENT resource during this “fourth trimester”. We can address any lingering or new pains/injuries, and provide education on self-care postpartum. We can also assess movement mechanics for basic childcare (lifting or carrying baby, breastfeeding, etc.) and facilitate a safe return to prior level of activity and exercise.
Did you know?
- Up to 50% of women report pelvic girdle and low back pain during pregnancy, but many don’t receive any form of treatment.
- Abdominal separation or diastasis rectus can be treated and improved, even years after pregnancy, without surgical interventions.
- Pregnant and postpartum women are encouraged to participate in 150 min/week of moderate-intensity exercise (if no contraindications exist in the individual).
- A physical therapist should be a key factor for all of the above – providing education, guided activity, and pain management.