Pregnancy and Chiropractic: Care and Safety
“A Report on Midwives & Chiropractic”
A report on the scientific literature
By: Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
Being a chiropractor for 34 years, I have treated hundreds of pregnant patients in my career for a host of “pregnancy related spinal conditions.” The impetus for conservative chiropractic care was in part because the pregnant patient could not utilize drugs as a result of contraindications with pregnancy and also in part because of the positive experiences both patients, midwives and obstetricians have observed through the years. It has been my persona observation that chiropractic is a safe alternative for pregnant patients and should always be the first option for anyone (pregnant or not) before the utilization of drugs, making them needless if a non-drug approach delivers positive outcomes.
According to Mullen, Alcantara, Barton and Dever (2011) “Chiropractors and midwives, with their conservative approach to patient care grounded in a holistic and vitalistic philosophy, share many common ideals in the care of patients. In the age of evidence based practice with an emphasis on an integrative approach to patient care, chiropractors and midwives have a unique opportunity to develop partnerships in this regard.” They found “that 57% of their nurse-midwife responders recommended chiropractic to their pregnant patients to address pregnancy-related neuromusculoskeletal (NMS) complaints, sciatica and fetal malposition. In a survey of both lay-midwives and nurse-midwives on their use of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) therapies, found chiropractic was the most popular CAM therapy to address musculoskeletal back pain. There are also indicators that chiropractors advocate for a strong working relationship with midwivesparticularly in addressing fetal malposition during pregnancy.” Pg. 135
Mullen Et. Al went on to report that 98.9% of midwives were aware that chiropractors worked with “birthing professionals” and 92.5% were knowledgeable about chiropractic’s role in prenatal care. 88.8% had an experience with chiropractors and 97% was positive. In addition, 94.5% of those had chiropractors treated their children and had a positive experience. The most revealing statistic is one of safety as 100% of midwives questioned answered that chiropractic was safe for their pregnant patients.
We are now starting to get answers from disparate sects of healthcare that verify what was once considered “miracles” with maladies such as fetal repositioning during pregnancy. These research findings verify that the chiropractic adjustment does not deliver miracles, it only helps the body work better and we now know why.
We also know that chiropractic is one of the safest treatments currently available in healthcare and when there is a treatment where the potential for benefits far outweighs any risk, it deserves serious consideration. Whedon, Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study and accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM [spinal manipulation] induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified (Whedon et al., 2015, p. 5)
The Journal of the American Medical Association Suggest a Link between Pregnant Woman – Back Pain – Tylenol Use & ADHD: Chiropractic Offers a Solution
A report on the scientific literature
By Travis McKay DC,
William J Owens Jr DC DAAMLP CPC
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
Liew, Ritz, Rebordosa, Lee and Olsen (2014) reported that pregnant women, at some point during their pregnancies, may experience musculoskeletal pain, particularly in the lower back, pelvis and hips. Since the symptoms are related to biomechanical changes associated with pregnancy, it is important to be able to offer relief while limiting potentially harmful side effects. One of the most common ways to treat musculoskeletal pain in general and during pregnancy, in particular, is through over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Most doctors and family members will recommend acetaminophen, more commonly known and marketed as Tylenol, as a pain reliever and as a safe choice for both mothers and their babies. However, Liew et al. (2014) reported, “Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is the most commonly used medication for pain and fever during pregnancy in many countries. Research data suggest that acetaminophen is a hormone disruptor, and abnormal hormonal exposures in pregnancy may influence fetal brain development” (p. 313).
According to Liew et al. (2014):
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders worldwide, characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, increased impulsivity, and motivational/emotional dysregulation. Hyperkinetic disorder (HKD; International Statistical Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision) is a particularly severe form of ADHD (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [Fourth Edition]). The etiology of HKD/ADHD is not well understood but both environmental and genetic factors are believed to contribute. (p. 313)
The study reported that children whose mothers used acetaminophen during pregnancy were at higher risk for a diagnosis of hyperkinetic disorder, use of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications, and/or having ADHD like behaviors by age 7. The study found that these outcomes were seen more in the mothers who used acetaminophen during more than one trimester of their pregnancies and that the more acetaminophen that was taken, the greater the likelihood that one of the previously mentioned conditions would be seen in their children. The authors reported, “We observed an increased risk for ADHD-like behaviors in children at age 7 years with maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy…as well as use in more than 1 pregnancy trimester, especially in later pregnancy, and a stepwise increase in risks with increasing frequency of use throughout pregnancy” (Liew et al., 2014, p. 318).
What does this mean for pregnant women? If additional studies confirm the association between acetaminophen and hyperkinetic disorder and ADHD, what options are available for pregnant women who are suffering from spinal pain during pregnancy? The answer lies in understanding other forms of pain management and non-medication based therapies which are already available to pregnant women. According to Coronado et al. (2012), “The mechanism of SMT [spinal manipulation therapy] remains elusive, but SMT appears to modulate pain through both central [brain and spinal cord] and peripheral pathways [down the arms and legs]. Studies have investigated the effect of SMT using variable experimental pain modalities including chemical, electrical, mechanical, and thermal stimuli. SMT demonstrated a favorable effect over other interventions on pressure pain thresholds (PPT)” (p. 763). This means that the chiropractic adjustment has a very specific influence on the body’s perception and management of pain.
Since the most common reason for pregnancy-related spine and pelvic pain during pregnancy has to do with altered mechanics, a non-drug approach to reducing pain and increasing function should be considered as a first-line alternative to eliminate the possible connection between acetaminophen and ADHD. Chiropractic care offers a neuromuscular and spinal biomechanical approach that focuses on the underlying causes of a patient’s spinal-related pain.
Chiropractic is one of the safest treatments currently available in healthcare and when there is a treatment where the potential for benefits far outweighs any risk, it deserves serious consideration, particularly as a first line treatment. Whedon, Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) based a study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study and accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM [spinal manipulation] induces injury in normal healthy tissues has been identified” (Whedon et al., 2015, p. 265).
Chiropractic should be considered as a first-line, safe choice for pregnant woman with back pain to avoid any potential side effects from all medications, when clinically indicated.
1. Liew, Z., Ritz, B., Rebordosa, C., Lee, P. C., & Olsen, J. (2014). Acetaminophen use during pregnancy, behavioral problems, and hyperkinetic disorders. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(4), 313-320.
2. Coronado, R. A., Gay, C. W., Bialosky, J. E., Carnaby, G. D., Bishop, M. D., & George, S. Z. (2012). Changes in pain sensitivity following spinal manipulation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 22(5), 752-767.
3. Whedon, J. M., Mackenzie, T. A., Phillips, R. B., & Lurie, J. D. (2015). Risk of traumatic injury associated with chiropractic spinal manipulation in Medicare Part B beneficiaries aged 66-69 years. Spine, 40(4), 264-270.