The majority of aches and pains that occur during your pregnancy can, and need to be addressed. Physiotherapy is one of several professions that can help.
Pregnancy can be a challenging time for many women not only emotionally but also physically. Unexpected discomforts and pains can occur and increase in intensity along side the increasing size of the baby bump. Many women may remain suffering with these pains throughout their pregnancy as they believe that it is “part of the pregnancy” and “you just need to wait”.
Who is a physiotherapist?
Physiotherapy is an allied health profession. They are qualified therapists who help to restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. They work with movement, manual therapy, exercises, education and advice (CSP UK). Physiotherapy has several subdivisions to the profession, one of which is musculoskeletal rehabilitation. Further, physiotherapist can have what is called special interest in pregnancy and post-partum care and develop their knowledge in this field through continuing their education specific to this population.
How can physiotherapist help me?
A Physiotherapist can address any pain related to muscles, joints, ligament and nerves. It can be a long term condition such as non-specific or pathology-specific low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or posture and position related pain (such as hip pain when lying on the side). A Physiotherapist that is experienced in myofascial techniques can help you release stiff muscles and joints, advise you on safe exercises and proper posture. Also e s/he can refer you for further investigations or treatments that may benefit you, such as chiropractic adjustment or further checks with OBGYN.
Is it safe in pregnancy?
There is great concern about the first trimester as chances of miscarriage are higher. There is no evidence and no guidelines that suggest that physiotherapy by a qualified and experienced practitioner will harm you and your baby. It is a safe way to improve your health providing the specialist you choose knows about specifics when working with pregnant women. You can see a physio at any time during pregnancy. To add, all physiotherapists are aware of contraindicated treatments during pregnancy as it is part of their university training. Bottom line, your physiotherapist should always explain to you what is s/he doing and why, and what the benefits of the treatment are. If during or before any treatment you feel discomfort or simply are not sure about it, you have a right to discontinue it at any point.
What to expect during physiotherapy visit?
At your first visit you will have a chat about the history of your condition, your medical history and your expectations from the treatment. Next, the physiotherapist will conduct an assessment of your postures and any specific assessments related to your problem. Depending on the complexity of the complaint, some treatment may be offered at the first session, but more extensive treatment will take place during following sessions.
What kind of treatment should I expect to have?
Depending on your problem, it could be manual mobilisation and manipulation of joints or soft tissues, advice on correct ergonomics, problem-specific exercises, and advice on passive support such as belts and taping. Appropriate and safe electrotherapeutic modalities such as TENS for example. It can vary greatly how many treatments you will need, as it is very problem-specific.
What additional benefits of treatment can be?
Whilst addressing an existing problem around the spine and pelvis, many asymmetries can be discovered and treated, particularly in the low back and the pelvic ring. It is important to have as much symmetry and mobility in pelvis as possible, as it is the “passage” for the baby and needs to provide as much space as potentially possible for the baby to pass. Often during the treatment for specific condition, other complaints such as headaches or sleep problems can surface and are also addressed by physio.
Overall, physiotherapy can greatly improve the quality of life for mum-to-be and there is no reason to delay the treatment if you feel that your aches and pains are taking over the joy of your pregnancy.
Anastasija Uvarova, Physiotherapist