How physiotherapy can help you during pregnancy

PREGNANCY is a beautiful process but it does not come without its problems, and can take its toll on a woman’s body in many different ways. Physiotherapists are able to help you manage these problems better. Here are some of the health problems facing moms-to-be and tips.

• NECK AND BACK PAIN — This usually happens because your posture changes with your growing belly and, depending on what you do during the day, this can lead to ligament strains, stiffness in the spine or joint and muscular pain. Your physiotherapist will aim to provide pain relief, and teach you how to stretch and exercise in a safe manner so that you can enjoy your pregnancy.

• RIB PAINThis can occur when there’s a pull on the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breast bone or when your baby is positioned in a way that restricts the natural rib movement that occurs when you breathe. Your baby may also be kicking your ribs! Your physiotherapist will work to facilitate movement in the ribs to provide relief.

• CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME — This happens when there is a fluid build-up in the wrist that compresses your nerves. This causes pain, numbness, feelings of “pins and needles” and “puffiness” to develop in the fingers and hand. Your physiotherapist will use ultrasound, exercises, kinesiotape, and massage to ease this fluid build-up and relieve pain.

• LOWER ABDOMINAL DISCOM FORT — This is caused by the stretching of the ligaments of the uterus as your baby grows. Your physiotherapist will aim to support the abdominal area using kinesiotape or a brace and ease the discomfort with hands-on treatment.

• BUTTOCK PAIN — Usually one sided; this most often occurs as muscles and ligaments get tight and restricted in their movement. This is as a result of the muscles working harder than usual to support the pelvis and the growing weight of baby. Your physiotherapist will work to provide pain relief and reduce muscle tightness as your body keeps changing.

• NUMBNESS/ALTERED SENSA TION DOWN THE LEG — Some women may feel a variety of uncomfortable sensations in their leg(s) during pregnancy. Mostly this is from increased pressure on the nerves in the lower back and/or the legs, either from an increase in body fluids (our blood volume increases by 40% during pregnancy), or from tight muscles. Here, your physiotherapist will work to relieve that pressure through hands-on techniques and gentle movement.

• PUBIC SYMPHYSIS DISCOM ­­­­FORT — This discomfort is felt below your belly button. A little extra movement can occur here as a result of the hormone relaxin allowing the pelvis to expand to support your baby. A physiotherapist will work to create some support around the pelvis and teach you how to move while, for example, turning over in bed or getting in and out of a car without experiencing discomfort.

• SWELLING IN THE FEET — During pregnancy, our bodies produce more fluids to support the baby’s growth which can result in swollen feet. Your physiotherapist may use massage, exercises, and sometimes compression socks/stockings to treat this, and teach you how you manage this better at home.

• CALF CRAMPS — This is probably the bane for most pregnant women as it comes mainly during the night, interrupting much-needed sleep. The lower legs support the increasing weight of the upper body during pregnancy and the muscles can get tight and tired, going into cramp or spasm. Physio treatment includes heat, stretches and massage.