Pregnancy and post-partum pain March 14, 2011

Surveys show that most women have back pain and/or hip pain during pregnancy.  And, in many cases, the pain persists even after Baby arrives.  Many women are told this is a natural part of pregnancy and there is nothing they can do about it.  Well, I have a different opinion.

Back and hip pain in pregnancy are due to a few things.  Some we can’t change, and some we can.  First, the things we can’t change:

1.  Weight gain – not much we can do here.  Let’s hope it happens.

2. Mechanical strain on lower back – the stress of carrying extra weight in the front pulls the back into “lordosis,” which causes soreness.

3. Relaxin, a hormone released in later stages of pregnancy, loosens up the connective tissue of joints to allow the pelvis to expand during the birthing process.  Since it circulates in the blood, all joints are affected.

We can’t do much to change those factors.  But the good news is that those things listed above are NOT the primary source of pain in pregnancy.

The main cause of pain in pregnancy can be summarized like this:

1. When weight is gained rapidly (like during pregnancy), muscles of the calf become overworked.  Their response is to tighten.

2. The tight calf muscles cause muscles of the lower back and hip to become weak through a series of inhibited reflexes (called heteronymous stretch reflexes).

3. The inhibited muscles of the hips and lower back tighten and become painful.  Sometimes the pain radiates into the legs.  (This is usually NOT due to the baby resting on the sciatic nerve.)

In most cases, this cycle can be prevented by maintaining the flexibility of the calf and hip muscles as the body gains weight.  And, if the pain is already present, the problem can be treated at its source by restoring flexibility to the affected muscles.

It’s not a lost cause.  Pregnancy doesn’t have to be painful!


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