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Back Pain and Pregnancy: November 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sciatica: A Real Pain In The Backside!

Sciatica is another constant companion of many a pregnant woman. Like indigestion, edema, and constant urination, sciatica tends to show up in the 2nd trimester. And like its companions it tends to stick around until the baby is born. The good news is that sciatica can be sent on its way rather quickly and leave you alone to deal with the indigestion, edema, and constant urination.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is an often misused term. Many people say they have sciatica if they have any lower back pain. However, sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve (the largest nerve in the body and the one that innervates the majority of the lower body) becomes pinched or irritated.

Sciatic pain follows a particular path from the lower back or hips and runs down the leg generally ending near the knee. Sciatic pain is often described as a burning pain or a pins and needles sensation. Numbness and tingling can occur as well. Sciatic pain makes it incredibly painful for a person to sit, stand, bend, or really do anything other than lay on their back.

Why is sciatica so often associated with pregnancy?

Sciatica in pregnancy is common for 2 reasons.

Our good friend relaxin is just doing his job and is allowing the pelvis to become hyper-mobile. (Read previous post on relaxin.) Unfortunately the sciatic nerve is attached in the pelvis and becomes irritated with all the unaccustomed movement.

As the baby grows, the uterus grows and puts pressure on the sciatic nerves and its surroundings. This weight is pulled forward, which increases the arch of the back and can lead to pressure on the sciatic nerve.

What can be done to ease the pain?

Sciatica can cause even the toughest to break into tears. It can be debilitating and miserable, but it doesn't have to last. Although it is tempting to stay in bed, not moving a muscle and praying to feel better, recent studies have shown that this is ineffective and can actually prolong the agony.
Getting up and moving while painful, will ultimately help the sciatic nerve.

Home remedies:
  • An ice pack applied for 10 minutes to the low back can help and is safe for pregnancy.
  • Sleep or lie down on your side with a pillow between your legs and one in the small of your back.
  • Try to stand as straight as possible and sit up straight.
  • Avoid standing or sitting for extended periods of time.
  • No heavy lifting.
Outside help:
  • Chiropractic is one of the best and safest treatments for sciatica. Using a gentle, low-force adjustment a chiropractor can free the sciatic nerve and allow normal impulses to return. A majority of women feel relief after the first treatment, and all but the rarest case are feeling fine by the 2nd or 3rd visit.
  • Some women find that acupuncture can really relieve the pain. It is believed to be safe for the baby and effective. Although it is great for pain relief, it does not correct the underlying structural problems causing sciatica, and it will return.
So, all you sciatica sufferers, get moving. Help your amazing body do its job without hurting you!

For more information about chiropractic visit

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can you turn breech babies?

Recently I have been getting the same question over and over . . . .

"Dr. Richards can you turn a breech baby?" Because this question comes up with alarming frequency I thought I would address it here. (Although this is not strictly a back pain related topic.)

First of all chiropractors do not and should not "turn babies". Turning a baby is a terribly painful and brutal practice. While some OBs may try to turn a baby, it is generally not successful and carries inherent risks, such as rupture of the placenta, injury to the baby, and early labor.
Once again, chiropractors do not turn babies.
Some of the confusion may lie in the fact that chiropractors often use a technique called the Webster Technique which was once known as the "Webster's Breech Turning Technique" due to the high frequency of babies turning following the technique.

What is the Webster Technique and how does it work?
The Webster Technique corrects intrauterine constraint, which occurs when the proper shape of the uterus in constricted due to tight ligaments, rotated sacrum, or other external forces. When intrauterine constraint is present it can keep the fetus from attaining the proper head-down birthing position, which leads most often to a cesarean section. In fact 13% of all cesarean sections in the US are due to breech positioning.

Performance of the Webster Technique begins by analysis of the relationship of the bones of the pelvis. Upon finding a restriction, a light force chiropractic adjustment of the sacrum corrects the restriction. The chiropractor will then analyze abdominal muscle tension or spasm and work to relax this tightening.

Does the Webster Technique work?
The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reported in the July/August 2002 issue an 82% success rate of babies turning head down when doctors of chiropractic used the Webster Technique. Further, the results from the study suggest that it may be beneficial to perform the Webster Technique as early as the 8th month of pregnancy when a woman has a breech presentation.

To summarize, if you have a breech baby and are concerned about the possibility of a cesarean, the Webster Technique is a safe and effective treatment. To find a chiropractor near you who is certified in the Webster Technique follow
this link. Or visit my office at

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