Do you have fibromyalgia? Are you thinking about becoming pregnant? If you have fibromyalgia and are planning on becoming pregnant, then you need to develop a detailed and personalized plan with your healthcare practitioner(s) before you decide to move forward. One of the biggest symptoms that women can experience during their pregnancy is worsening fibromyalgia symptoms and this article will provide some suggestions in coping with the pain associated with it.
In one study, 26 women who met the criteria for fibromyalgia were followed during their pregnancy. They reported worsening pain during their pregnancy. In particular, they felt that during the third trimester the pain was worse compared to the other trimesters.
Were you aware that even women who have never been diagnosed with fibromyalgia can experience fibromyalgia-like symptoms during their pregnancy? In another study, 100 women who were not diagnosed with fibromyalgia and were pregnant were followed during their pregnancy. Approximately twenty- five percent of the women reported having several fibromyalgia-like symptoms, especially near term.
As you may be aware, a woman’s physiology changes during pregnancy. The “supporting ligaments” in the pelvis are more relaxed (in part due to a hormone called relaxin). There are changes to the overall body mechanics due to pregnancy that can also alter your structural alignment. This is the cause of worsening pain for fibromyalgia patients, including to the back and the pelvis.
What can you do to help minimize the fibromyalgia symptoms during your pregnancy? Again, proper planning is important. One recommendation is enlisting the aid of an osteopathic physician skilled in osteopathic manipulative therapy, or OMT, for short. Studies have demonstrated that OMT can help not only relieve back pain (especially in the third trimester) but also pelvic pain, both of which can be worse especially in the latter trimester. It is likely that as you proceed through your trimesters you will require more frequent sessions with an OMT specialist to keep your body in structural balance.
In addition to the OMT specialist who can really help with pain and discomfort in the back and pelvis, consider the addition of a reflexologist. A good reflexologist can help you decrease the severity of the pain in those “tender points” that are associated with fibromyalgia. One study demonstrated that weekly reflexology sessions can in fact decrease the severity of pain in highly prevalent areas including the arms, neck, and head.
For those areas that are still causing you some pain, consider the use of acupuncture, which is especially effective at reducing the pain of those “tender points” seen with fibromyalgia. If you are averse to “needles” then consider adding acupressure to your regimen.
Can yoga be performed safely during pregnancy? Yes, but of course it will need to be modified because of your pregnancy, but it can help you with your pain. A study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine demonstrated that yoga was more effective than simple posture based exercises at reducing low back and pelvic pain.
Concerning the use of natural supplements or herbal remedies to relieve pain during pregnancy, the use of many are contraindicated during pregnancy. When using natural supplements at higher than low levels, you need to be careful. I tend to advocate for the above therapies to help with pain; I believe that a combination of therapies, including OMT and reflexology, complement each other very well.
Dr. Rich Snyder, DO
- Gunnarsdottir TJ, Peden-Mcalpine C. “Effects of reflexology on fibromyalgia: A multiple case study.” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2010 Aug; 16(3): 167-72.
- Licciardone JC, Buchanan S et al. “Osteopathic manipulative treatment of back pain and symptoms during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2010 Jan;202(1):43.e1-8.
- Martins RF, Pinto E Silva JL. “Treatment of Pregnancy-Related Lumbar and Pelvic Girdle Pain by the Yoga Method: A Randomized Controlled Study.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Therapy. 2013 Mar 18. (Published Electronically Ahead of Print Publication).
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- Saa’s S, Many A et al. “High prevalence of fibromyalgia symptoms among healthy full-term pregnant women.” Rheumatology International. 2013 Jun;33(6):1555-60.
- Tettambel MA. “An osteopathic approach to treating women with chronic pelvic pain.” Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 2005 Sep;105(9 Suppl 4):S20-2.
Photo Credit: thepregnancyzone.com