Osteopathy and Pregnancy

Osteopathy Pregnancy is an amazing experience – both experiencing it or watching someone go through it. The body undergoes such transformational changes which include hormonal changes and of course lots of postural changes to accommodate for the growing size of the baby in the abdomen and pelvis. This in turn may cause strain on the lower back, hips and pelvic muscles and joints. But sometimes with all those changes comes some pain… and if they do, come and see us at ProActive Osteopathy in Malvern East or Chadstone

Commonly in pregnancy, due to these changes, women will experience sciatica.

Sciatica refers to irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a very large nerve that is made up of a bundle of nerve fibres that come from the lower back. These spinal nerves join up together in the gluteal (buttock) region, and then continues down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg as the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve supplies both motor (movement) and sensory (feeling and sensation) to the thigh, leg and foot.

When the sciatic nerve is irritated during pregnancy it can give rise to many symptoms that may include a few or all of the following:

  • Aching or sharp pain in the back, buttock, thigh, and/or leg and/or foot,
  • Pins and needles in the thigh, and/or leg and/or foot,
  • Hot, shooting pain in the buttock, thigh, lower leg, foot,
  • Pain while sitting, driving, and/or walking,
  • Muscle weakness in the leg and/or foot
  • Increase in pain when sneezing, coughing, lifting and twisting the body
  • IF you experience weakness or you are not able to control bladder or bowel function – go straight to your closest emergency department as IMMEDIATE medical attention is required

If sciatica is a new experience for you in pregnancy, it is most likely going to resolve within 2-12 weeks after you have given birth. If the sciatica has been caused by postural related changes as well as un underlying condition such as disc bulges, joint or disc degeneration or spinal nerve irritation then it may take a little longer to resolve and further investigation, treatment and rehabilitation may be required. Discussion with your Osteopath, obstetrician and health care practitioners will advise on YOUR case and best management plans!

Natural solutions for managing sciatica during and after pregnancy may include:

  • Osteopathic treatment

This includes:

    • Massage
    • Joint mobilisation
    • Joint articulation
    • Muscle energy techniques
    • Dry needling
    • Myofascial release
    • Muscle strength program for lower and upper back, hips, pelvic muscles, legs and feet
  • Use of Heat and/or Ice
  • Bracing of Sacroiliac Joints, Pubic Symphysis, Lumbar Spine (Lower back) and Thoracic spine (Mid-Upper back)
  • Postural tape of sacroiliac joints, hips, lower and mid/upper back
  • Use of a lumbar support cushion when sitting and driving to support your lower back
  • Wearing shoes that have a lot of support, and minimal or NO heels!
  • Sleep side-lying with pillow between the knees and a small pillow or rolled up towel under the baby bump for support in bed
  • Don’t lift anything heavy
  • When bending, watch your posture, and make sure your “core” muscles and pelvic floor muscles are activated
  • Gentle exercise including strengthening exercises for the upper, mid and lower back, pelvis, legs and feet and stretching exercises
  • Water therapy such as swimming, kicking, walking, hydrotherapy classes for pregnancy or just even floating in the water may help ease pressure on the sciatic nerve.

So make sure, no matter what stage of pregnancy you are in, or even after you have given birth, that if you are experiencing sciatica or sciatica type symptoms you seek osteopathic, medical or professional advice from your health care provider. This will allow for quicker healing and better management for your overall care.

This blog post is an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.



Pregnancy massage can help you cope with the changes to your body that occur while you are pregnant. It can be especially useful to ease discomfort at a time when you can’t use some medicines or some other medical options.

What is pregnancy massage?

Pregnancy or prenatal massage is used to reduce stress, reduce swelling in the arms and legs and relieve muscle and joint pain in pregnant women.

Massage in pregnancy can involve many different massage techniques. It is usually a gentle massage.

What does a pregnancy massage involve?

Pregnancy can put a lot of stress on your back, shoulders, neck and abdominal muscles. Pregnancy massage is designed to relieve some of the aches and pains that are common during pregnancy. A qualified therapist will understand the areas to target and which to avoid.

Before the massage begins, your therapist will talk to you about your health and lifestyle. They will ask you to lie on a specially-designed massage table and will cover you with towels to protect your privacy and to keep you warm. They will probably use creams or oils to help them to massage your skin smoothly.

They will help you to get comfortable with pillows. Remember it is not a good idea to lie flat on your back while you are in the second half of your pregnancy since this puts too much pressure on the vein that runs from your legs to your heart.

The health benefits of pregnancy massage

There hasn’t been much research into the health benefits of pregnancy massage, but it does seem to reduce stress, relax and loosen your muscles, increase blood flow and improve the lymphatic system. It can also improve mood, lower anxiety and help you sleep better.

Pregnancy massage has also been shown to be very effective during labour to help manage painand improve your emotional experience of labour.

Always talk to your doctor before you have a pregnancy massage, especially if:

Therapeutic massage has been used for centuries to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension. Massages during pregnancy have often received ambivalent responses from the health community regarding their safety and purpose. Modern investigation and research has shown that prenatal massage therapy can be an instrumental ingredient in women’s prenatal care and should be given careful consideration.

Although most massage training institutions teach massage therapy for women who are pregnant, it is best to find a massage therapist who is certified in prenatal massage. The APA works with some massage therapists who are trained to work with pregnant women, but it is still important to ask about qualifications.


MASSAge And Pregnancy: Benefits Of Prenatal Massage

Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health. Massage therapy addresses different needs through varying techniques, one of which is called Swedish Massage.

Swedish Massage aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body. Swedish Massage is the recommended massage method during pregnancy because it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts.

Hormone regulation

Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered when massage therapy is introduced to women’s prenatal care. This leads to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health.

In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (hormones associated with stress) were reduced, and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression).

These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence strongly suggests there are maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.

Reduction of swelling

Edema, or swelling of the joints during pregnancy, is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints. This also improves the removal of tissue waste carried by the body’s lymph system.

Improvement of nerve pain

Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves.

Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced a significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through massage.

Other potential benefits of prenatal massage:

Precautions For Prenatal Massage?

As with any therapeutic approach to pregnancy wellness, women should discuss massage with their prenatal care provider. The best way to address the risks of prenatal massage is to be informed and to work together with knowledgeable professionals.

Body position during prenatal massage

Many professionals consider the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is side-lying. Tables that provide a hole in which the uterus can fit may not be reliable and can still apply pressure to the abdomen, or allow the abdomen to dangle, causing uncomfortable stretching of the uterine ligaments. Consult your massage therapist before your first appointment to verify what position they place their clients in during the massage.

Seek an appropriate massage therapist

It is important to seek care from a certified prenatal massage therapist.  Certified therapists have received training beyond the national standards for massage therapists and know how to address specific pregnancy and massage needs.

They are aware of how to position you safely and prevent strain to the uterine ligaments. They are also able to watch for symptoms of blood clots and varicose veins.

Women who have recently experienced bleeding, pre-term contractions, or have any of the following conditions should speak with a health care provider prior to receiving a massage:

Is Prenatal Massage Safe Throughout The Entire Pregnancy?

Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the firstsecond, or third trimester. Many facilities will refuse to offer massage to a woman who is still in her first trimester because of the increased risk for miscarriage associated with the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Prenatal Massage As Part Of Prenatal Care

The benefits of massage can improve overall prenatal health for many pregnant women. Along with the guidance and advice of a prenatal care provider, massage therapy can be incorporated into routine prenatal care as an emotional and physical health supplement shown to improve pregnancy outcome and maternal health. Consult with your midwife or obstetrician before beginning any new therapeutic practice.


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