Written by Dr. Brenda Fairchild
1. Can epidurals cause lingering back pain postpartum? If so, how long might the pain last?
Yes, epidurals can cause back or worse can cause permanent nerve damage from the injection. But, not all the back pain can come from the epidural itself. Depending on the provider, if moms-to-be are given an epidural, they labor and birth on their backs with legs in stirrups called lithotomy position. You can also be on your side, sitting, or in a squat position. Because, of the epidural, women can feel less pain so they may not know their back muscles are going into spasms and need to change positions. Depending on the severity of the injury, the pain can range anywhere from a few days if it muscle spasm, to 6-8 weeks if there is pelvic instability or fractured tailbone from delivery.
2. At what point should a new mom bring lingering back pain to their doctor’s attention?
It is not uncommon to have some back pain right after delivery of your baby. But it is better to be safe and let your provider know what is going on. Some moms have a hard time standing, sitting, numbness in legs or arms, can’t get comfortable sleeping, or severe headaches. If you should experience any symptoms that you believe are not normal, let your provider know as soon as possible.
3. What can new moms do to help ease any lingering pain from an epidural?
First of all, it is ok to take time for yourself!! Make sure you are eating and drinking properly first and foremost. Schedule an appointment with a post-natal chiropractor. Chiropractic care is extremely helpful in balancing the pelvis and pelvic floor muscles. By aligning your spine and pelvis you will notice you will start to feel more yourself, less pain, and better sleep. Make sure when looking for a chiropractor in your area, you will want to make sure they are certified in the Webster Technique by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. Here you will find a specialized chiropractor trained in pregnancy and postpartum women.
Alternating between ice and heat over your sore and tight muscles. Light stretching of your back. If you have the ok from your provider, take a yoga class or book a post-natal massage. Both are helpful with soothing pain and a wonderful compliment with your chiropractic adjustment. Taking an Epsom salt bath helps with relieving muscle aches and pains. Take a nap. Even a short nap can reset the body and help you heal quicker from injury.
Did you know that even newborn babies can benefit greatly from chiropractic care? Conditions such as colic, reflux, and other common issues can be treated with physical adjustments. But perhaps one of the most important visits is the first visit after baby’s birth.
As soon as mom and baby feel well enough to leave the house, it can be beneficial to be seen by a chiropractor. The act of being born is not inherently dangerous for baby. In fact the compression of the contractions and the hormonal and probiotic cocktail to which they are exposed during labor and delivery are all beneficial to baby.
However, as a result of increasing rates of cesarean section and continued instrumental deliveries, many babies undergo mild to moderate physical trauma during the birth process. Even a typical vaginal delivery in the United States, complete with an epidural and mom pushing from flat on her back or a semi-sitting position can result in trauma to the newborn baby. Labor inductions can also cause unusually intense contractions that excessively compress babies skull, neck, and spine. C-sections, forceps, and vacuum deliveries often involve an inordinate amount of tugging and pulling, both of which can cause their soft bones and joints to come out of proper alignment.
Chiropractors who specialize in Pediatrics have the skill and knowledge to properly assess and adjust tiny newborns. In a review of thirty three studies on chiropractic care and pregnancy and the postpartum period, research indicated evaluation and spinal adjustment of the infant to be beneficial.
“The induced vector of force that may cause trauma to the newborn includes traction of the cervical spine coupled with hyperextension during the birth process.31 Forceps, cesarean, and suction or vacuum extraction can also cause trauma to the newborn’s cervical and thoracic spine and spinal cord31 and may warrant chiropractic evaluation…In a review of 1000 infants, Gutmann suggested that birth trauma frequently affected the atlanto-occipital joint, causing blockage or vertebral subluxation.31 Correction of such a presentation may be accomplished through a light, precise, biomechanical adjustment, using various gentle techniques.32” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/)
Wordy I know! But the gist is that a precise, gentle, adjustment by a skilled provider can greatly improve baby’s comfort level and promote proper development of the spine. As with any practitioner, is important to always choose your chiropractor wisely. Like your medical doctor, make sure that you are choosing a practitioner who listens to your health concerns, respects you and your family, and has a firm knowledge base in your particular issue. While most chiropractors are trained in the care of infants, it is best for babies to be adjusted by those who specialize in pediatrics. And once baby is correctly aligned, it is important to maintain said alignment! Babies are meant to be carried and worn by their parents and even older siblings. Babywearing promotes both mental organization and proper spinal and hip alignment. But more on that in our next post!