Pregnancy and Physical Therapy

September 13, 2018
What to Expect at Your First Physical Therapy Visit
September 21, 2018

Pregnancy and Physical Therapy

By Stacy Schreiber, DPT, Clinic Manager
ApexNetwork Physical Therapy – Lebanon, IL clinic

Back pain, pelvic pain, buttock pain, carpal tunnel syndrome: all of the above are common conditions throughout pregnancy that many individuals do not realize can effectively be decreased and treated with physical therapy.

Throughout pregnancy, the body goes through adaptations in order to prepare for a growing baby and in readiness for delivery. Several notable changes that occur within the body during pregnancy that contribute to many of the above conditions include: increase in blood volume, increase in hormones including relaxing, and postural changes within the body.1 An increase in blood volume helps the growing fetus but it can also contribute to less available space throughout the body. Within the carpal tunnel of the wrist, more fluid can ultimately lead to compression of the median nerve, also known as carpal tunnel syndrome. With the increase in relaxin hormone, the ligaments within the body become less stable, more flexible, and more prone to instability and pain.1 This ligament laxity occurs throughout the body but often the complications from it are felt around the low back and sacroiliac joint. Lastly, various postural changes during pregnancy include forward movement of the center of gravity when the baby grows which causes an exaggerated forward tilt of the pelvis.1 This will also contribute to a forward rounding of the mid back and shoulders.1 These postural changes can affect the flexibility and strength of various muscles throughout the body which can contribute to pain.

With all of this in mind, a physical therapist can help to combat and lessen the pain many women face during pregnancy. The physical therapist will thoroughly evaluate each specific case to determine specific treatments that are appropriate for each individual. For low back, hip, and pelvic region conditions, many times, treatment will include flexibility exercises, stabilization exercises of the abdominal and upper hip musculature, soft tissue massage to alleviate tension within the muscles, as well as possible bracing. In regards to bracing, sacroiliac (SI) belts are a potential option for low back and pelvic pain. An SI belt surrounds the sacroiliac region including the hips and pelvis providing the body with additional support during this vulnerable time when the body’s ligaments are not providing the expected support. In regards to carpal tunnel, treatment may include flexibility of the wrist and hand, strengthening of the wrist and elbow, nerve glides, and night bracing. Considering these conditions and physical therapy treatments, it is important to remember that like any exercise routine, please consult your doctor prior to initiation!

Please contact your local ApexNetwork Physical Therapy clinic for further information.

1. Pregnancy and Physical Therapy. American Pregnancy Association Promoting Pregnancy Wellness. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/pregnancy-and-physical-therapy/. Published July 2015. Accessed August 29, 2018.