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.
I have many mothers join my practice during pregnancy with the thought that it won’t be needed once baby arrives. I have several others who call for their first appointment shortly after birth begging for relief of new found pains and problems. It doesn’t take either mother long to understand just how valuable chiropractic care is as a standard of care in a healthy lifestyle.
I have shared much information about care throughout pregnancy here on the blog and within my book, but I feel as though the topic of postpartum chiropractic care is an extremely important topic within itself. I am not just talking about the week after having your new baby, which of course is highly needed, but also the months – and even years for some – after having children.
After giving birth, you may not consider one of your first outings should be to the chiropractor, but once you think about the journey you have accomplished, you may think again. That first visit after birth is wonderful for both mother and baby. Your baby has just experienced quite the ride – no matter how she entered this world. Her positioning within your uterus may or may not have been ideal, the birth process is strenuous, and the world can be a hard place to adjust to. A great family chiropractor is exactly what she needs! I’ll save those details for a future blog, but know that a newborn definitely can and should be seen after birth.
Today, though, I want to talk about YOU… the mother.
As you may (or may not) have realized, your body has changed significantly throughout birth:
- Ligaments have loosened
- Bones have spread
- Nerves have been pinched
- Back Pain has persisted
- Weight has shifted
- Posture has changed
- Balance is different
- Hormonal tides have caused chronic complaints
After giving birth, some of these problems disappear while most linger and new ones arise. The body immediately begins working to tighten the ligaments and realign organs and bones, but it is a process. This can take months, even up to a year to completely occur. And while this is happening, you are altering your body by holding a baby, leaning to breastfeed, survive in a state of exhaustion. To put it mildly, your body is not in its peak performance state.
Seeing a chiropractor immediately after birth grants you the ability to jump start your body’s healing process. Chiropractic care ensures proper blood flow to these tightening ligaments, aligns the spine to allow proper neuron reception and movement, and can alleviate aches and pains.
There are, of course, the most common areas needing adjustment after birth; the pubic bone, sacrum, and lower back. While pregnancy can alter these areas, birth significantly throws them out of place. A good adjustment will ease the body into motherhood with far less pain than a mother who does not get adjusted. Continual chiropractic care throughout the postpartum period speeds the recovery time as a whole, too.
Postpartum chiropractic care can also be responsible for the following:
- Correcting Posture
- Speeding Pelvic Floor Recovery
- Alleviating Sciatica and Nerve Pain
- Aiding in the Prevention of Postpartum Depression
- Relieving ‘New Mother Wrist’ Pain
- Subsiding Headaches
- Providing Comfort for Better Sleep
If you are planning to have more children, it is even more important to help heal your body properly. Future pregnancies deserve a strong foundation and healthy start.
Giving birth is an intense experience in which the body pushes itself, causing stress and pains to the mother that can last well after the baby arrives. Even if no immediate pain is felt, there is still need for chiropractic care during the postpartum period.
I often explain to my clients that after having a baby, the body needs time and help to reach its full potential again. So many women complain about things never being the same, or that back, hip, pelvic, or wrist pain intensifies instead of dissipating. Considering all the body has been through during pregnancy: the hips widening, additional weight being carried, a postural shift, hormonal changes, and other ailments, it is easy to understand that the body may be out of alignment. When you then add hours of contractions, pushing, and birth into the equation, it’s clear that one of the first trips out of the house after having your baby should be to the chiropractor.
Did you know?
A woman’s pelvic biomechanics can be altered during birth. As the baby descends, especially if he is posterior (sunny-side-up), the bones of the pelvis can shift and become misaligned.
Chiropractic care can manipulate the pelvic bones, restoring balance and comfort.
Throughout the last few weeks of pregnancy that lead to labor, the following occurs:
• Hormones work to soften the ligaments between the bones in your pelvis which allows for the pelvis to shift, granting additional room for the birth. This can cause soreness in some women. These hormones are not only released to the pelvic region, but the entire body is affected. This means that all ligaments have the opportunity to become looser, weaker, or less effective. This puts you at an increased risk of injury, inflammation, and pain at all joints of the body. These hormones commonly cause instability and abnormal motion of the sacroiliac joint, pubic-symphysis, and other joints that can cause lasting pain.
• Baby drops lower into the pelvis, engaging for birth. This shift or drop can cause further stress on the body, as the mother alters her posture to accommodate this extra weight and different position from baby.
• Braxton Hicks contractions. These are the body’s way of preparing birth, and they can be both positive and negative. If brought on by dehydration, stress, over-working, or exhaustion, the body will not be working as a whole. Maintaining a healthy diet, proper sleep, and daily exercise should help keep Braxton hicks contractions to a beneficial amount.
If birth was difficult or traumatic, the spine and pelvic joints large challenges to overcome.
Once the baby has arrived, a mother’s center of gravity is altered drastically, causing her to even walk differently. Her hormones rollercoaster, and her body works toward nourishing the baby. Holding this new baby can shift the posture and strain the wrist, neck, or back. Failure to restore normal biomechanics may result in permanent health problems in need of medical intervention.
The jury is still out on exactly how long the hormone relaxin can affect the body postpartum. If it is still present, the ligaments of the body will not completely tighten. Research shows that the ligaments begin to re-tighten nearly 8 weeks after giving birth, but the process’ length can be different for each woman, taking up to a year or more. It is critical to work with a qualified chiropractor before ligaments begin to pull back, as it can cause long-term problems if the joints are not properly aligned.
During the postpartum period, chiropractic adjustments speed recovery time, aid the body in normalizing pelvic and spinal positions, and help correct the posture. Seeking chiropractic care within the first two weeks after giving birth may help to prevent headaches, shoulder problems, neck discomfort, muscle tension, lower back pain, sciatica, upper back pain, wrist and elbow pain, and more.