During pregnancy, women may experience a number of complaints, many of which can be helped by regular physiotherapy treatment. The most common complaints may include:
low back pain
Low back pain is a very common complaint for women in pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester when the patient's centre of gravity has shifted. Low back pain during pregnancy can be treated with hands on physiotherapy, postural education, providing back supports, home exercises or a Pilates based exercise program.
pelvic floor weakness/urinary incontinence
A common problem related to pregnancy, due to the pregnancy hormone progesterone, which relaxes and weakens the pelvic floor to increase its suppleness for birth. Pelvic floor muscles can become strained and weakened during pregnancy and childbirth, leading to Pelvic floor dysfunction and continence problems. Physiotherapists can provide strengthening exercises and a Pilates based exercise program during pregnancy to strengthen these muscles and to help reduce the muscle weakness which can be caused by childbirth.
sacroiliac joint pain
The Sacroiliac joints (SIJ’s) are located at the very bottom of the back. The pain is often one-sided and may be concentrated in your buttocks (Sturesson et al 1997). During pregnancy, females release extra hormones that allow the connective tissues in the body to relax, allowing the muscles to stretch enough to give birth. This can result in the SIJ ligaments and muscles becoming overly mobile, allowing excessive movement in these joints.
Symptoms may include:
- Present swelling and/or inflammation over joint
- Difficulty lifting leg
- Pain pulling legs apart
- Unable to transfer weight through pelvis and legs
- Pain in hips and/or restriction of hip movement
- Transferred nerve pain down leg
- Malalignment of pelvic and/or back joints
- Difficulty sitting and standing
- Awareness of an audible ‘clicking’ sound coming from the pelvis
Physiotherapists can provide strengthening exercises during pregnancy to improve stability as well as hands on therapy to realign the pelivs and reduce pain.
The sciatic nerve is a long nerve that runs from the lower back to the back of the legs and feet. Pressure on the sciatic nerve during pregnancy can lead to backache or other areas. Sometimes persistent or chronic pressure to the sciatic nerve can result in weakness in the leg or surrounding areas, numbness or even tingling. Physiotherapy utilises manual treatment as well as stretching exercises to relieve symptoms and reduce disability.
carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by an increase in fluid causing swelling around the channel of nerves (the carpal tunnel) in your wrist. This swelling can lead to symptoms such as:
- Lack of coordination in fingers and hands
Physiotherapists can provide treatment such as mobilisation, soft tissue techniques, stretching and strengthening exercises, to relieve symptoms. Specific braces can be utilised at nights and during certain activities to help control inflammation around the wrist and minimize symptoms.