Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, is an evidence-based technique that involves the science of movement to promote healing and holistic fitness. It includes a wide array of exercises and massages. While any person, irrespective of age and gender, can benefit from this technique, physiotherapy during pregnancy has well-defined advantages.
Significance of Physiotherapy For Pregnant Women
Our body produces a hormone known as relaxing. While both men and women form relaxation, this hormone is primarily produced in pregnant women. It is responsible for preventing any damage to a woman’s body during childbirth.
The production of relaxation increases significantly during the second trimester. Primarily, this hormone is aimed at loosening the birth canal and preparing your body for childbirth. However, besides the birth canal, high levels of relaxin result in the loosening of other ligaments in your body.
While on one hand relaxing facilitates the flow of blood, it leads to muscle, joint, and body pain, on the other. This side-effect of relaxing is the fundamental cause of your lower back pain during pregnancy. Physiotherapy during pregnancy is a helpful approach in dealing with the pain resulting from an increase in relaxin. This practice can assist in alleviating muscle pain through the means of specific exercises and massages. The targeted exercises not only help in reducing pain but also maintain the strength of muscles.
Which Issues Can Physiotherapy Address?
As discussed above, physiotherapy can help in reducing pain and improving the strength of muscles. While most pregnant women complain of lower back pain, there are other areas that physical therapy can help with.
Some common issues pregnancy physiotherapy can deal with are:
- Upper back pain
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Sciatica (pain that radiates from the lower back through hips and buttocks to the leg)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (a condition that causes numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand)
- Pelvic girdle pain (pain in front and back of the pelvis)
- Bladder issues
Posture changes – posture changes during pregnancy are necessary, but can also be painful or uncomfortable, especially if you have any past injuries that can be aggravated. Physiotherapy can help you accommodate the necessary postural changes and decrease the pain associated with them.
It is important to remember that the source of your pain and discomfort is the increase in levels of relaxation. However, the location of your pain can be unique. The role of physiotherapy in pregnancy is to identify the precise location of the pain and address it to minimize ache.
What are the Benefits of Physiotherapy During Pregnancy?
Physiotherapy benefits pregnant women in multiple ways. The role of physiotherapy in pregnancy has both, long and short-term advantages. Some of the top benefits include:
- Reliving lower back pain: During the early stages of your pregnancy, your body prepares itself to accommodate the growth of your child. It further continues to prepare for delivery. In its attempt to assist you during this journey, your ligaments stretch and become soft. Simultaneously, as your child grows inside you, your size increases, and you gain weight. Due to this weight gain, your body’s centre of gravity shifts and moves forward leading to additional pressure on your lower back. Physiotherapy and exercise during pregnancy can help in alleviating lower back pain.
- Strengthening pelvic floor muscles: It is popularly known how pregnancy makes you urinate more. During pregnancy, you will experience an increased flow of blood in your body. This increased blood flow puts your kidneys to extra work and releases extra fluid leading to increased urination. Sometimes, however, increased urination and weakened pelvic floor muscles can cause urinary incontinence. Incontinence is a highly common side-effect of pregnancy. Physiotherapy can help in reducing incontinence by strengthening muscles by offering pelvic floor exercises. There is various exercise during pregnancy such as kegel exercises that you can learn from a verified physiotherapist to train your bladder.
- Preparing for labour and delivery: While the course of pregnancy may be smooth, childbirth is a highly taxing event. Your body requires high levels of strength and flexibility to naturally induce labour and deliver a fully grown baby. Due to the need for core strength and flexible muscles, pregnant women are asked to consistently remain physically active (unless advised by the doctor). Physiotherapy is a good alternative to monotonous physical activities. A physiotherapist can train you to push effectively during delivery. You can also practice a range of pelvic floor exercises to help you prepare for labour and childbirth.
- Assisting in posture changes during pregnancy: As discussed above, the centre of your gravity may shift during pregnancy. The increased pressure on your lower back can cause your uterus to move slightly forward. Similarly, the weakened lower back muscles can cause you to lean forward with bent shoulders, neck, and mid-back. The transition in the position of these muscles can change your posture. Physiotherapy is an effective medical tool that helps in correcting posture during pregnancy.
- Relieving from carpal tunnel syndrome: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common side-effect of pregnancy. It is a medical condition that causes numbness and tingling sensation in the hand and arm. The increased volume of blood in your body during pregnancy can lead to nerve compression, particularly in the wrist area (because it is comparatively narrow). This nerve compression can cause numbness, pain, and tingling in your hand and arm. Physiotherapy addresses Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by focusing on pain management and consistent blood flow.
Your choices during pregnancy will help in deciding the health of your fetus. Physiotherapy during pregnancy is a preferable choice for expectant women who wish to inculcate exercise and relaxation in their life.