Treating a Herniated Disc when You are Pregnant

Pregnancy is supposed to be a beautiful time for most women, but a herniated disc can get in the way of that enjoyment and planning. If you had a disc herniation prior to pregnancy, you may find that the changes to your body’s structure and shape can re-aggravate your injury. A growing baby can also push on the spine and cause a disc herniation, which can be debilitating.

According to a 2010 study, women who experience lower back pain during menstruation are at a higher risk of developing lower back pain-related issues during pregnancy, including disc herniation. While most doctors recommend spinal surgery to correct the herniation, there are several non-invasive options which can help correct the herniation and are safe for you and your baby.

Causes of lower back issues during pregnancy

As your baby grows, your body shifts internally in order to accommodate your child. These structural changes, including shifting of internal organs, can cause pressure on different nerves and muscles in the lower back.

A growing belly is also a cause of lower back pain during pregnancy. The weight of the belly, mixed with gravity, pulls on the joints in the pelvis and the lower back muscles. People with stubborn belly fat are also at risk for these same issues. Near the end of the pregnancy, this weight can cause the lordotic curve in the lower back to pull on the sacral, hip, and vertebral joints as well.

To prepare your body for childbirth, your ovaries will release a hormone called relaxin, which relaxes ligaments and joints to help the baby more readily move through the birth canal. While relaxin serves an important purpose, it can also have a detrimental effect on already-strained joints in the lower back. Joints can shift more easily, becoming misaligned and painful.

Treatment options

If you have a herniated disc during your pregnancy, most doctors will recommend surgery to correct the issue. Unfortunately, spinal surgery is not always successful, and can end up making the problem worse. A better alternative is to seek non-invasive treatment options, which are safer for both you and your baby.

The first step is to visit a chiropractor who can determine where the herniation is located and how to best adjust it. Chiropractic care is safe during pregnancy and beneficial to many areas of the body. Chiropractic can help reduce symptoms of nausea, relieve pain in other areas of the body, and even reduce delivery time or eliminate the need for a C-section. Chiropractors who use the Webster Technique on breech babies have demonstrated an 82% success rate of babies turning vertex by delivery time.

Your chiropractor can gently manipulate your spine so that your discs are realigned, and give you exercises and stretches to strengthen the muscles surrounding your spine to keep it aligned as you move about your day.

Massage therapy is also beneficial for pregnant women who suffer from herniated disc pain. The movement of muscles stimulates regeneration of damaged tissue in the muscles and surrounding nerves by increasing blood flow and relaxing tight or pulled ligaments. When massage is completed in conjunction with chiropractic care, pregnant women will see faster relief from their pain symptoms.

Acupuncture is another beneficial treatment, along with aromatherapy and meditation. There are also yoga classes specifically tailored to safe pregnancy positions which can help increase flexibility and strength in areas which typically are affected by pregnancy.

Exercise and cardio
It’s important to get plenty of cardio exercise while you are pregnant to help increase blood flow and oxygen throughout your body. It also promotes the release of toxins from the body through sweat and metabolism, which is always beneficial to the baby and mother.

There are targeted exercises which can help strengthen the lower back and reduce the risk or effects of a herniated disc. Core exercises are key to helping support the belly weight of the baby against the pulling of muscles and joints in the lower back.

Lower back exercises, stretches, leg exercises, and upper back exercises can help balance out some of the strain caused by a growing baby, and also promote increased blood flow and oxygenation in the blood.

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