As a chiropractor one of the most common questions I get from my pregnant patients is “What is causing my lower back pain?” They then proceed to tell me that their back was fine before they were pregnant and now that they are a few months along they are getting increasing pain in their lower back and hips.
It’s not like they do not have plenty of other changes going on or issues to contend with, now their back hurts and they want to know why. While there is a plethora of options one of the most common causes is relaxin. No that is not a typo and I do not mean relaxing. While inactivity and being out of shape can increase your chances of developing lower back pain, relaxing is actually an essential component to a healthy pregnancy. You are, after all, growing a human in your body, which requires a huge amount of energy. When my wife has been pregnant (3 times now) she had a standing order to take a nap or rest whenever possible.
No, what I am talking about is called relaxin and it is a hormone the body releases during pregnancy and ovulation. While it has many functions, including increased blood flow to the kidneys, etc., its primary function is to affect the ligaments around the pelvis, allow the pelvis to expand and open the birth canal for the baby.
While this is all well, good and necessary, relaxin also has a dark side. At the same time that it allows the birth canal to be properly opened it creates instability in the lower back and pelvis. This is a major contributing in one of the most common complaints of pregnant women: lower back pain.
Lower back pain tends to increase in women as they progress in their pregnancy. If left untreated this pain can become debilitating, increase the difficulty and danger of childbirth, and lead to long term issues down the road. Following birth relaxin and its effects can stay with the mom for up to 18 months post delivery. As the ligaments tighten back up if the pelvis is not properly positioned the pelvis can become stuck in a pain producing position.
Both during pregnancy and following birth proper steps can be taken to remedy both the short and long term issues relaxin can bring up. Many chiropractors, including those at Spinal and Sports Care Clinic, have special training in both chiropractic techniques and exercises specifically designed for pregnant women. Studies have shown that when OB doctors work together with other practitioners, including chiropractors and massage therapists, that the outcome of lower back pain in pregnant patients is significantly improved.
So if you or someone you love is/was pregnant and is experiencing lower back pain tell them about relaxin not relaxing and send them to get the help they need.