Chiropractic Care & Pregnancy: Understanding the Webster Technique

Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. However, it can also come with many do’s, don’t, and questions.  One question that has come up more frequently is how to deal with lower back pain during pregnancy?  One technique that has become widely known is Webster technique, a chiropractic technique that offers a gentle and effective adjustment to a woman’s spine and pelvis addressing any joint restrictions as well as muscle tightness.  Such a technique leads to reduced muscle tightness and subsequent reduced back pain, in which yields positive results in the delivery room. While each expecting mother should consult with their physician, here are a few things to consider when evaluating if the Webster technique is right for you.

As a brief background, Webster Technique originated over 30 years ago by Dr. Larry Webster.  Dr. Webster found the specific technique and steps to be useful in the pregnant population, at its core the technique can be used on any individual as it is used to address sacral (the posterior portion of the pelvis) restrictions and dysfunction.  In the early days of the technique due to clinical observations, the name Webster Technique became synonymous as “breech turning technique”.  However, while there are studies showing correction of a breech fetal position after an adjustment, the Webster Technique has always only addressed sacral dysfunction with associated muscle tightness.

As a chiropractor, we work with joints, muscles, and ligaments to address biomechanical imbalances and dysfunction with all patients.  Thus, during a pregnancy a women’s body is changing everyday with the growth of the fetus, and optimizing that function is the goal.  Chiropractic care on the mother prepares the pelvis for an easier pregnancy and delivery by creating a state of balance in the spine, pelvis, and muscles. In addition, it helps to remove any excessive pull along the ligaments that support the uterus.  For the infant, balancing the pelvis, sacrum, and spine allows the baby more room to develop and room to move into the best possible position for birth.  With proper biomechanics and function of the mother’s pelvis along with proper fetal position, there is a significant decrease in dystocia, which is defined as obstructed labor or resistance to a normal birth.  

For more of a technical perspective, one needs to understand the core of treatment and it’s association with the pelvic girdle.  The pelvic girdle is composed of the sacrum, ilium bones, and coccyx.  While the iliac bones play a role in the “opening” of the pelvis during birth, the sacrum truly opens via movement of the inferior portion.  The muscles and ligaments strongly associated with the changing pelvis include the broad ligament, round ligament, and psoas muscle. The broad ligament of the uterus connects the sides of the uterus to the walls and floor of the pelvis, holding the uterus in its normal position.  The round ligament extends from the lateral portion of the uterus and terminates along the tissue area on the pubic symphysis.  These ligaments are important to understand as they are comprised partly of muscle cells and thus can have characteristics of any regular muscle, which has the ability to contract.  With that said, during pregnancy the round ligaments will increase in both length and diameter.  Thus with the increase in size and ability to contract, these ligaments can become very tight and cause imbalance.  Lastly, the psoas muscle is a muscle that many lower back pain patients, pregnant or not, know all to well.  The psoas connects to the lateral aspects of the lumbar vertebra and disc from levels T12-L5.  When contracted and/or in spasm, it pulls along the lumbar spine and pain is produced.  The same concept is also correlated to gluteal and piriformis involvement that presents as the common “sciatic” pain.  
With the complete picture in mind, it is easy to see how the change and growth during a pregnancy affects a mother’s body and thus the potential for discomfort.  Given the naturally gentle approach of Webster technique it is a great adjunct to be utilized in caring for a mother to be, regardless if lower back pain is present.  For more general information about Webster Technique visit https://icpa4kids.org/.

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