Nick Potter BSc (Ost), MRO, Dip.Myo.Ac is a Registered Osteopath at The Centre of Physical Medicine. Nick has been treating pregnancy related problems for 20 years. 

Pregnancy, labour and birth are probably the greatest of human miracles. The process is not however without its problems, one of them being back, neck and pelvic pain.

Osteopathic medicine is ideal for treating such problems, quickly safely and effectively. It is a medical discipline which uses a multitude of techniques to treat disease or dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system. In the case of pregnancy it can be invaluable in helping the patient’s body to adapt to the amazing changes that occur within it during the 40 week period. It is also completely drug free.

During pregnancy, the skeletal and muscular system undergoes many important changes. This is predominantly to accommodate the growing child but also to prepare the birth canal for delivery.

The bones, ligaments,tissues and uterus are softened and changed by the many hormones secreted by the body. The most important of which are Oestrogen, Progesterone, Relaxin and HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin).

As the baby gets bigger, the uterus expands to occupy more of the abdominal cavity and places pressure on many of the other important organs e.g diaphragm,stomach and bowel. This results in reflux (indigestion), constipation and hyperventilation (shortness of breath)

Morning sickness and vomiting can also cause a lot of rib and back pain. The very powerful reflex of diaphragm contraction, during vomiting, is the most powerful in the body, and repeated bouts can cause painful muscular aching. This is well treated with osteopathic techniques.

From 20-25 weeks onwards the hormone Relaxin softens the tissues, particularly the ligaments of the spine and pelvis. The abdominal muscles weaken and lengthen and the pelvis tips forward. The muscles activate to compensate for a radical change not only in the body’s posture but also the load they have to carry.

At 30 weeks onwards, the pelvic structures are becoming softer and more pliable such that the muscles of the low back and pelvis have to work harder to support the skeleton.This results in the muscles aching.The pelvis also contains some important nerves which supply the lower limb and as they leave the low back and pass into the legs they can become compressed by the baby’s position. Again osteopathic techniques can be extremely successful in not just relieving but treating the pain.

Later in the pregnancy, the soft tissues of the limbs engorge with fluid (swelling) which can become uncomfortable due to pressure.

Some patients have pre-existing problems which are aggravated by the strains of pregnancy and these can be picked up and dealt with early on in the process.

Osteopaths use gentle, safe techniques to help the musculo-skeletal system adapt to these changes and prevent painful symptoms from developing.

They can treat common problems such as pubic symphysis disorder, sacro-iliac strain, sciatica, rib pain, headaches, dizziness as well as neck and generalised back pain.

By Nick Potter, The Centre for Physical Medicine