An instructor at a recent course that I attended for my fellowship training brought up a great point. He said “ It’s ridiculous that we treat patients for every other pain in their body but when a woman goes through 9+ months of physical changes, including stretching of abdominal muscles, increased hormone levels that lead to ligament and joint laxity, weight gain putting more stress on joints, and changes in weight distribution that can strain the low back, that we don’t see them on a consistent of proactive basis”. He highlighted the fact that despite the immense physical toll placed on the body, that most medical providers don’t refer women to PT during or even after pregnancy.
Over the past 7 months I’ve become increasingly aware of the amazing ways that the female body adapts to pregnancy as well as the not so great effect this can have on the musculoskeletal system, such as back pain, radiating leg pain, and diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles). One of the most common complaints that women have during pregnancy is back or joint pain and for the number of women who experience that, PT’s don’t treat that many pregnant patients. There is an area of specialization know at pelvic floor physical therapy that addresses a lot of the internal aspects of pelvic conditions as well as pregnancy and post-partum care and they do amazing things for those patients but most of those patients don’t get sent to PT for treatment for other orthopedic conditions associated with pregnancy.
Due to the physical changes and demands placed on the body, pregnant women experience some unique aches and pains that require specialized treatment approaches. While some modifications in treatment may need to be made to accommodate for a growing baby and Momma, increased pain with certain activities, or changes in fitness levels, physical therapy for pregnant patients remains nearly identical to treatment for patients with similar joint, muscle, and physical conditions that we treat on a daily basis. There are very few contraindications to physical therapy during pregnancy and research actually shows that most women benefit from PT for musculoskeletal conditions during pregnancy. Physical therapy has also been shown to help prevent and reduce diastasis recti during and after pregnancy.
Speaking from personal experience, I know how much physical therapy treatment during pregnancy can help to relieve low back and leg pain as well as work on core and abdominal exercises that help during pregnancy, delivery, and in the long term as a preventative measure. With our advanced training and knowledge of the adaptations in treatment for pregnant patients (and with some personal experience as well) we are uniquely qualified to treat numerous conditions throughout and after pregnancy!
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