Despite how common it is for pregnant women to experience musculoskeletal pain during their pregnancy, one study suggests that the vast majority of women don’t receive treatment for their pain.
Fredrick Wilson, DO, an osteopathic physician and spine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Spine Health, uses osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) to reduce low back pain in pregnant women. OMT is a set of techniques DOs use to diagnose and treat illness and injury. Using their hands, DOs move their patients’ muscles and joints via various techniques including stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.
Dr. Wilson has found that OMT for a pregnant woman’s back pain is typically effective for about two weeks before symptoms return. Since he can’t see each patient that often, he’s come up with an innovative way to make sure his patients are getting continued relief — by training the women’s partners in manual therapy based on his OMT techniques.
“As more than one pregnant patient has told me with a smile: ‘Who better to help me reduce my pain than the man who got me into this in the first place?’ ” says Dr. Wilson.
Dr. Wilson conducts shared medical appointments (SMAs) once a month on Saturday mornings with roughly five pregnant women and their partners.
“As SMAs have become more in vogue, I’ve started showing partners the landmarks of pain and a few helpful techniques,” he says.
Because 1 in 10,000 pregnant women have a herniated disk, Dr. Wilson first makes sure each patient’s pain is mechanical before he invites her and her partner to attend the SMA. At the SMA, attendees learn gentle muscle energy and myofascial manual therapy techniques.
“The techniques and positions I currently teach have been refined over several years to identify those that have proven to be most effective while remaining gentle,” says Dr. Wilson. “Examples include the myofascial release to the sacrum and leg traction to the posterior pelvis.”
Dr. Wilson’s efforts to hone his techniques prove especially worthwhile for women and their partners who conceive more than once. Pregnant women with low back pain are likely to experience it again and sooner in their next pregnancy, according to Dr. Wilson. Women who have attended Dr. Wilson’s SMAs tell him their partners often remember the techniques from the previous pregnancy.
Not a single injury has been reported to Dr. Wilson from over 1,000 pregnant women and their partners he has treated and trained. Dr. Wilson says he has only received positive feedback from patients.
“It’s a win-win,” he says. “This approach helps keep pregnant women more comfortable while enhancing their partner’s involvement in the pregnancy. It really can form a special bond.”
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