Medical Musings, Health Hypotheses & Therapeutic Thoughts
In this instalment, we will consider some of the common issues that can arise while your body bounces back from the rigours of pregnancy, all the while dealing with the changes that motherhood brings.
Thoracic (mid- and upper back) pain
There are (surprise surprise!) big changes taking place here.
As the body adjusts to no longer having this large object compressing all the internal organs, changing the centre of gravity, and altering spinal and rib mechanics, the curves in the mid- and low back start to return to pre-pregnancy proportions.
However, this is complicated by a few factors.
And all of this assumes you are not holding an increasingly heavy baby the whole time!
Briefly, because the shoulder has very little support from its bony structure, it relies heavily on the musculature surrounding it to maintain stability. There are a lot of small muscles with big jobs in here, and they can (and do!) complain if they feel overworked and underappreciated.
Another factor that can have a huge impact to shoulder problems after giving birth is if you choose to breastfeed your baby either partially or fully.
With regards to the first point, this is not something which will have failed to have been mentioned. However, it is really easy to do without realising.
Often, I will observe the mother taking great care to face the body towards her, support baby's head in a suitable position, and do that little swiping thing with the nipple to elicit a latching response... ...and then sort of fold the shoulder down and over to create better contact.
Other common problems include elevating the shoulders to try and lift the baby up to the breast, and/or gazing lovingly down at your little bundle of (mostly) joy.
I know this does not sound like a problem (and I am certainly not advocating you avoid it!), indeed, one of my wife's biggest joys of breastfeeding was the sense of connection with this little being you are nourishing; but holding your head in such a flexed (and normally sidebent/rotated) position puts a huge mechanical strain on the shoulder, thorax and neck
Again, problems in the shoulder area cannot really be divorced from factors in the neck, thorax, ribs, and further down in the arms, so your osteopath will do a full assessment of all these areas.
The second point is not really one with which osteopathy can help, but it is worth mentioning as far too many sources bang on about the joy of breastfeeding and how it's a wonder (which may well be true), but fail to mention that until you and - more importantly - baby learn what you are doing, it can be really quite painful as well.
Wrist and Hand Pain
Moving down the arm, we may find that the stresses of breastfeeding, as well as carrying a baby constantly, can quickly take their toll.
Most parents will hold their child in their non-dominant hand, as this frees up the dominant hand for more complex tasks like writing (or possibly more likely these days, tapping on a phone!) or opening doors.
This has the advantage of leaving your dominant hand free. It also means you are doing a lot of unaccustomed work with what is probably your weaker side. This may result in elbow, forearm, wrist or hand issues.
Neck Pain and Stiffness
Note: If you have blinding, excruciating headaches in the day(s) following giving birth and you received an epidural, please tell your GP or obstetrician straight away. It may indicate 'post dural puncture' headache, which is when the membrane or 'bag' around your brain and spinal cord is pierced by the injection. The chances of it happening, according the knowledgeable chaps at the NHS, are around 1 in 200. It has often described as 'the worst hangover in the world', and may also be associated with neck pain, nausea and photophobia (dislike of bright lights)
Low Back Pain and Pelvic and/or Pubic Pain are a huge topic, and will be dealt with in a later post.