For those clients who received chiropractic treatment during pregnancy, it is natural to want to seek additional follow-up therapy and maintenance after the baby is born (post-partum). Others who have never considered chiropractic care may not be fully aware of the benefits of realigning the body after giving birth. Ligaments and muscles loosened during pregnancy, and there may still be discomfort and sciatic concerns after birth, as well as misalignment from the birth and recovery period. These, and other reasons, are why post-partum chiropractic care may be beneficial to many women. The hormone relaxin can keep ligaments soft for 6 months. This causes poor alignment, which can lead to lower back and pelvic pain. Holding a new baby stresses the back, shoulders, and arms. This can be especially pronounced if an older baby or child is held on one hip. New mothers can have headaches, neck/shoulder pains, or even carpal tunnel syndrome in their forearms. But the relaxin also has the benefit of making chiropractic adjustments go more smoothly. The body is still pliable and not yet scarred.1 Women who have had a lot of bed rest from a C-section may be even more prone to aches, postural strain, and discomfort. Chiropractors can also assist with proper seating positions and stretching techniques.2
In other countries such as China, and in the Middle East, there is a longer period of post-natal care for the mother. The new mom is encouraged to relax for many weeks, and extended family may help take care of the baby. In the United States, and in other western cultures, it is considered normal to resume regular activities a few weeks after birth.3 It is important to remember that women also need to take care of themselves in order to best care for their family. Health maintenance should become a priority. Chiropractic care can assist with this mindset.
Pain is Not a Lifestyle
“50 to 85% of pregnant and postpartum women to develop some form of pain” due to changes in the musculoskeletal system. Progesterone and estrogen, in addition to the relaxin, also increase fat storage, while the ligaments are loosened. Spinal stability is altered. When the ligaments re-tighten after birth, there is often back and pelvic pain. There can even be injury to discs. Women may refer to the pain as “mommy back” or “mommy neck”. Chiropractic treatment can restore alignment and reduce these issues.4 “Pubic symphysis dysfunction/pain, round ligament pain, lower back and sciatic pain, neck and shoulder discomforts, (and) headache” can be alleviated with proper post-partum care.5
Adjustments for Post-Partum Pain Relief
Readjustment of the spine, pelvis, and any other parts of the body that have become misaligned is the first action that a chiropractor can perform. The chiropractor can also recommend post-partum workouts, tailored to the patient’s current level of ability and taking into consideration the performance of these exercises with the baby. Diet also affects nursing moms and the diets of their newborns. Additionally, babies who have just been born can also receive chiropractic care within a few days after their birth. The chiropractor can help to make sure the newborn is not experiencing any misalignment that could affect development. Chiropractic care can easily be done more gently for the newborns.6 There are a few exercises to try post-partum. Exercises should be performed with the approval of the doctor and the patient should begin slowly before gradually building up to harder and longer work. They must remember that their body has just gone through a major long-term change and that they need time to heal. Walking is a great everyday exercise. Leg bracing is a 3-5 rep exercise where the ankles are crossed, the legs are straightened, and then the thighs and buttocks should be squeezed together. Kegels are great for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles which have been weakened during childbirth. The pelvic tilt helps strengthen abdominal muscles and relieve back ache. To perform this, the patient must lie on their back, knees bent. Tightening of the stomach and buttock muscles should be followed by flattening the small of the back against the floor and holding that position for 2-3 seconds. Abdominal breathing is also performed on the floor with the knees bent. The patient will then relax their body as much as possible, sinking their weight into the floor before gently placing their hands on their abdomen with closed eyes. The patient will then focus on their breathing, stretching abdominal muscles outward while inhaling and then pulling those muscles back in hard while exhaling. Each part should be held for a count of five seconds and repeated 3-5 times. These are just a few examples of exercises to do. Additionally, extra attention should be paid to the actions of lifting and bending. At all times, the knees should be bent and the focus of the weight when lifting. Knees should not be straight and the back should not be used to lift. Bending at the waist is discouraged, the action should be a squat. Whenever possible, pushing instead of pulling minimizes impact on the back and arms.7