The impact of pregnancy on your muscles
There are a lot of things that can cause pain or strain within your body during pregnancy. Your body has had to adapt to a multitude of changes throughout pregnancy. For example, the added weight of your child within your belly can be straining on your lower back and hips. The weight of the baby shifts your center of gravity forward, which may cause pelvic tilt that further strains the surrounding muscles of the lower back and legs. Due to your abdominal muscles and stomach being stretched for months, your core will have weakened, which can contribute to lower back pain. You may also sit and rest more during pregnancy, causing your muscles to lose some strength. You will be also unable to complete your normal exercise and workout routines, adding to the reduction in strength.
Even your hormones make you more prone to injury, strains and overstretched muscles and ligaments. During pregnancy, the hormone ‘relaxin’ loosens the ligaments and muscles of the body. This hormone can remain in your body for up to 6 months post-pregnancy. You are more likely to injure yourself with a sprain, strain or overstretched muscle during this time. Due to this, you have to be wary of the intensity of exercise you do for the first few months after giving birth. A soft tissue occupational therapist can use hands on treatment approaches to help alleviate your pain and treat strains. An exercise physiologist can assist you in maintaining the strength of your body to reduce your likelihood of injury.
How soon can I begin post natal massage?
If you have no post-birth complications, you can begin massage within the first few days after birth.
If you have had a C-section, it is best to begin massage once your scar has healed and when you have the go ahead from a trusted medical professional.
Who can provide post natal massage in Perth?
Your soft tissue occupational therapist is qualified to provide treatment of musculoskeletal injuries through myofascial massage techniques.
What is soft tissue occupational therapy treatment?
Soft tissue occupational therapy treatment focuses on treating musculoskeletal disorders of the body through diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Treatment may also involve future prevention of injury through strengthening and returning your muscles back to normal functioning, enhancing the resilience of the musculoskeletal system. The overall aim of therapy is to heal and restore function to injured and weakened body parts, as well as to aid and promote wellbeing. This is especially important after pregnancy, as your body is trying to return to its pre natal state.
What exactly is soft tissue?
The soft tissue of the body involves the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and fascia, all which allow us to freely move and participate in activities. These soft tissues provide us the strength and flexibility to maintain our posture, and to support our movement. Unfortunately, the soft tissues of our body are prone to injuries such as: muscle tears, sprains, postural misalignments and other trauma, all of which require soft tissue occupational therapy treatment. Pregnancy is a form of trauma on our body due to the large amount of changes occurring within the body. As mentioned before, the weight of carrying your child in your belly can cause strain and postural misalignment. Alongside these injuries, as we age, our soft tissues begin to deteriorate. This reduction in our soft tissue function often leads to disability and other negative consequences to our health and quality of life – if our body doesn’t allow us the function to do the things we love, this will then reduce our mental wellbeing. Therefore, it is important to look after our soft tissues and to maintain optimal strength throughout our lifespan.
Soft tissue occupational therapists use multiple techniques to relieve pain:
Postural assessment: Occupational therapists may assess your posture to determine if your muscles have contracted (shortened) enough to cause postural changes within your body – which can lead to other pain within your surrounding muscles. By assessing your posture, we can determine what muscles are tense and what muscles are over-stretched and treat accordingly. Commonly after pregnancy, your pelvis may have an anterior(forward) tilt, which then exaggerates the curves of your spine, causing further imbalance along your body.
Trigger point release therapy: Trigger point therapy involves finding the trigger points within your muscles and applying pressure to release the trigger point. Trigger points are hypersensitive or painful spots found within your muscles – they are essentially the knots within your muscles that are associated with tightness and pain. Pressing on these points may be painful and refer pain to elsewhere in your body (headaches are a great example of referred pain). Trigger points may disappear on their own, or exist until they are treated through a trigger point ‘release’. Trigger points reduce your muscle ‘length’, meaning that your muscle may have difficulty with contracting (tensing) and extending (stretching). When your muscle does not have full length, blood and lymph flow is reduced within the area, causing the body to accumulate more waste products within the area, maintaining pain. When a trigger point is released, blood flow returns to the area, clearing out the waste product and aiding in repair of injury, restoring normal functioning of your muscles.
Myofascial release: This involves hands-on massage treatment, moving through your muscles and fascia to allow them to ‘release’, improving blood flow and lymphatic circulation. Fascia is a web-like covering every muscle, allowing your muscles to stay in place within your body. When the fascia is tight, this results in poor blood circulation, cramping sensations, reduced oxygen supply, and reduced removal of waste products and toxins that cause inflammation. Over time, this means that pain becomes chronic, our muscles and joints stiffen, and this causes premature ageing. Trigger point therapy and myofascial release go hand in hand.
Exercise/stretching prescriptions: This is to assist with reducing pain at home, and to assist with strengthening a newly healed muscle to prevent the recurrence of an injury. Exercise physiologists are also experts in providing the appropriate exercises for you. Appropriate exercises will be prescribed depending how many week postnatal you are.
Self-management techniques: Soft tissue occupational therapy treatment involves your active involvement – you are in control of what happens to your body! Your soft tissue occupational therapist may recommend equipment and provide education to allow you to best manage your pain outside the clinic and prevent it from recurring in the future.
Urban Health HQ can provide post natal massage in Perth, Western Australia. Contact our friendly soft tissue occupational therapist by calling 0411 563 391 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org