The joys of motherhood also come with some uncomfortable chronic pain during pregnancy.
Back pain, pelvic pain, neck pain, sciatic pain, and plantar fasciitis—not to mention the plethora of other physical and hormonal changes that go on during the 9 months of carrying. Kinesiology tape is a non-invasive, safe, and convenient alternative to managing discomfort and can easily be incorporated into your pregnancy massage practice. Kinesiology tape can be worn in the shower and some brands can last up to five days.
Kinesiology tape works by stimulating the nervous system through the skin. Much like massage, kinesiology tape can create an up-regulation or down-regulation of the nervous system, a decrease in pain perception, and alter movement patterns in the body.
In the case of pregnancy, most women experience similar pains in the neck and upper traps, low back, pelvic, and sciatic areas. Due to the increased sensitivity of the skin while pregnant, it’s important to apply a small, 2” test strip to the area of treatment prior to full application.
The following applications address the 5 most common issues for pregnant women.
1. Low back pain
As the body shifts to adjust for the growing baby, low back pain is often the most commonly cited discomfort. With the increase in anterior pelvic tilt, the strain on the low back can become severe to even debilitating.
If you don’t have a pregnancy cushion for your treatment table, you can treat your client in the seated position using traditional manual therapies coupled with gentle IASTM prior to applying kinesiology tape.
With your client gently flexed forward, apply two vertical strips of tape on either side of the spine beginning at the top of the glutes. Do not stretch or pull the tape. Simply lay it over the tissue of the erectors. Apply a horizontal strip spanning the width of the low back. Applying this strip before or after the vertical strips does not affect outcome. A 50 percent stretch can be applied to the middle of this piece of tape but zero stretch on the anchors.
2. Pelvic Pain
Many women cite extreme tenderness on the pubic bone due to the natural separation of the pubic symphysis in the later phases of pregnancy. In addition, soft tissue treatment of the adductors as well as the sacroiliac region might be warranted after proper evaluation.
Some will find relief with a compression garment, however, pain relief may also be achieved by utilizing a technique called the “baby belt.” As seen in the photographs, this application provides support in a spiral pattern from the anterior pelvis all the way to the posterior shoulder blade.
3. Neck and Upper Back Pain
Given the postural deviation associated with pregnancy, many women will experience tension and discomfort in the neck and upper back area. Following manual therapy, there are several simple applications (two shown below) that can offer relief.
4. Sciatic Pain
Sciatic pain can become disabling very quickly if not properly treated. After evaluation and soft tissue therapy to the area, kinesiology tape application can provide continued relief. In the photograph below, note that the client is side lying with her leg slightly hanging off of the table to provide stretch to the tissue.
Although the photo shows one continuous length of tape, you can also stop the first strip just above the popliteal space and then apply the continuation of the second strip just below it if the client complains of irritation in the popliteal fold. This will not compromise the effectiveness of the application.
5. Swollen ankles
Circulation can sometimes become compromised during the middle-to-later trimesters, resulting in fluid buildup in the lower extremities. A simple edema taping application can help eliminate discomfort from swelling and can contribute to more effective lymph flow.
More pregnant women are beginning to seek out kinesiology taping treatment due to its safe, non-invasive characteristics. In addition to the fact that it can be comfortably worn under clothing, its effects last for days after treatment. Most taping applications will last for up to five days if they are applied to clean, dry skin, free of oils and lotions.
About the Author
Stacey Thomas, L.M.T., S.F.M.A., F.M.S., N.K.T., C.F.-L2, has been dedicated to human movement and athletic performance since 1997 and certified as a sports massage therapist since 2005. She holds certification in Functional Movement Screen, Selective Functional Movement Assessment, Neurokinetic Therapy and CrossFit Level 2, as well as other training and soft tissue modalities. She is credentialed by educational organizations regarding human movement and soft tissue treatment. You can find her in one of her three Front Range, Coloado, clinics treating athletes or teaching courses for RockTape.
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