Osteopathic care during pregnancy and beyond.
Growing Bones provides osteopathic care for pregnant women and new mothers.
Pregnancy brings dramatic musculoskeletal changes that alter normal biomechanics, accompanied by ligamentous strain, increased muscle tension, and decreased range of motion, causing pain. Osteopathic manipulative treatment treats somatic (body) dysfunctions with a variety of techniques, thereby increasing range of motion, improving tissue texture, and decreasing pain (Hensel et al. 2015). Osteopathic manipulative treatment is defined as “the therapeutic application of manually guided forces by an osteopathic physician to improve physiologic function and/or support homeostasis that has been altered by somatic (body) dysfunction” (Hensel et al. 2015).
Pregnancy and new motherhood brings about significant physical, emotional, psychological and social changes, and it’s important that women are supported during this time of transition. Our practitioners and teachers are incredibly passionate about providing osteopathic and complementary holistic care to during pregnancy and early motherhood ensure both mother and baby remain physically and emotionally healthy.
Wellbeing in pregnancy is important for both mum and baby.
Research suggests that infants are born with biochemical profiles identical to their mothers. This means that when if a pregnant woman is stressed or anxious, in pain or depressed, cortisol (the stress hormone) is released and produces ‘survival’ responses in the mother and her developing baby (Field et. al., 2003).
Fortunately this action works both ways. Maternal feelings of relaxation and wellbeing may promote the release of feel-good hormones that affect the growing baby and support infantile growth in a stress-free and emotionally nourishing environment (Field et. al., 2006).
Stress is a natural part of life, and pregnancy often triggers stress for many reasons. There is now research to demonstrate the therapeutic effects of massage and bodywork on the stress levels of pregnant women, and these benefits are transferable to the growing baby (Field et. al., 2005).
Osteopathic care in pregnancy works to reduce pain and improve postural alignment, and also to cultivate feelings of of calm, wellbeing, relaxation, and emotional and physical nurturing, which have significant physiological effects on both mother and baby.
The most common reasons for pregnant women to seek osteopathic care include, but are not limited to...
- Lower back pain- Low back pain is encountered in an estimated 70% of pregnant patients but challenges persist in identifying safe, effective treatment options. For example, most pain medications are not recommended during pregnancy, leaving few options for pain control (Hensel et. al., 2015). Osteopathic manipulative treatment is a body-based treatment that offers a conservative option for relieving pregnancy related low back pain while increasing back-related function.
- Pelvic pain (Sacroiliac joint and/or pubic symphysis)
- Groin pain
- Hip pain
- Maintenance of postural balance
- Sciatic pain
- Middle, upper back, and neck pain
- Rib cage pain
- Headache and/or face pain
- Carpal tunnel: tingling in the hands
How may osteopathic care help pregnant women and babies?
Osteopathic treatment in pregnancy aims to reduce pain, improve postural balance and improve fluid dynamics including blood flow, venous (veins), and lymphatic drainage throughout the body.
Osteopathic care at Growing Bones aims to make the most of increased flexibility of a pregnant woman’s body. Massage, stretching, joint articulation is applied to release areas of restriction, while taping and corrective exercise helps to off-load and support areas of hyper-mobility (too much movement). Overall, osteopathy aims to help maintain body balance and decrease physical stress during pregnancy, and support a healthy, happy recovery post birth.
We find that increasing physical comfort and body balance during pregnancy leads to women feeling emotionally better- and the associated release of feel-good hormones that affect the growing baby and support infantile growth mean better outcomes for baby too!
What to expect from your osteopathic treatment session at Growing Bones:
Your osteopath will take a comprehensive case history to understand how you are physically and emotionally adjusting to pregnancy, and ensure osteopathic care is safe for you. An osteopathic diagnosis is made, and subsequent treatment includes soft-tissue massage, stretching, and subtle balancing (cranial/biodynamic) techniques to establish balance and flexibility throughout the body. These osteopathic techniques may help the pregnant body to better adapt to changes in weight, improve balance during walking and other movement, and optimal positioning of the growing baby inside the uterus.
NOTE: Although osteopathic care is generally considered safe for pregnant women, it is advised to check with your general practitioner or obstetrician if you are in a ‘high-risk’ category before seeking osteopathic care.
Evidence to support the use of osteopathy during pregnancy.
It’s important to note that current evidence for the use of osteopathy in pregnancy is inconclusive, and study design has limited the validity of results. Despite this, osteopathic treatment is commonly provided to pregnant women.
"The inclusion of body-based therapies such as OMT that provide touch, time and interaction may offer patients and providers a safe, effective adjunctive option to improve comfort and reduce the impact of pain commonly associated with third trimester pregnancy'" (Hensel et. al., 2015).
“Our results indicate that OMT [Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment] lessens or halts the deterioration in back-specific functioning that often characterizes the third trimester of pregnancy and thereby provides an important clinical benefit when used as complementary therapy” (Licciardone et. al., 2010).
“Treatment of somatic dysfunction in pregnant women can enhance homeostasis and improve comfort and quality of life as the maternal body adapts to the physiologic and structural changes of pregnancy. Through the application of OMT, osteopathic physicians can dramatically improve the lives of women during pregnancy.” (Lavelle, 2012).
Please visit Osteopathy Australia's Supportive Research Page for more references.
Osteopathic care may also help the body to recover postnatally.
Pregnancy and its accompanying physical, mental and emotional changes require significant adjustment for most women. The adjustment can be even greater postnatally as you have a new baby to care for with interrupted sleep while your body undergoes great readjustment, over months and years it slowly goes back to ‘normal’. Depending on your pregnancy, labour, and postnatal condition women may experience a wide range of issues.
In the first 1 to 2 days after childbirth, many women experience muscle fatigue and aches, particularly of the shoulders, neck, and arms, because of exertion during labour. The levels of the hormone relaxin gradually subside, and ligaments and cartilage of the pelvis begin to return to their pre-pregnancy positions. These changes may cause hip and joint pain that often interferes with ambulation and exercise.
Even weeks after your baby’s delivery, you may be experiencing residual physical stresses left over from labour such as lower, mid, or upper back pain, along with menstruation issues, incontinence, or constipation. Abdominal wall weakness, abdominal separation, and pelvic floor weakness are common.
Osteopathy in the first few weeks and months post birth may help provide comfort and relaxation by decreasing muscular tension and improving postural balance.
Osteopathic treatment aims to reduce any pain or discomfort after childbirth, helping to restore and maintain healthy pelvic alignment after labour. This in turn supports a healthy posture and increased mobility so that you can relax and enjoy your new baby.
Prescription of gentle stretches and postural advice further assists mothers physically recover and remain functional outside of the osteopathic clinic, so they are free to care for their new arrival.
Want to know more about osteopathic care for pregnancy?
To find out if osteopathy is suitable for you, you are welcome to speak with our osteopath by calling us on (03) 9687 3040, or make an appointment using our secure online booking tool.
Osteopathy for pregnancy: references and relevant studies…
Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S & Kuhn C. 2005. Cortisol Decreases and Serotonin and Dopamine Increase following Massage Therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115(10):1397-1413
Field T, Hernandez-Reif M & Diego M. 2006. Prenatal depression effects on the fetus and newborn: a review. Infant Behavior and Development, 29(3):445-455
Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C & Bendell, D. 2003. Pregnancy anxiety and comorbid depression and anger: Effects on the fetus and neonate. Depress. Anxiety, 17: 140–151. doi:10.1002/da.10071
Hensel KL, Buchanan S, Brown SK & Rodriguez M. 2015. Pregnancy Research on Osteopathic Manipulation Optimizing Treatment Effects: the PROMOTE study. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 212(1): 108.e1-108.e9
LicciardoneJC, Buchanan S, Hensel KL, King HH, Fulda KG & Stoll ST. 2010. Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment of Back Pain and Related Symptoms during Pregnancy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol., 202(1): 43.e1–43.e8.
Lavelle JM. 2012. Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment in Pregnant Women. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 112:343-346.