By Elizabeth Polis, PT, DPT
My physical therapy practice is full of mothers-to-be with similar complaints—leg and back aches, swelling, sciatica—and other painful issues common in mid to late pregnancy. Many of them are nearing or have entered their third trimester when both body and baby start to rapidly put on additional weight. The uterus has also fully expanded, putting a considerable amount of pressure on the diaphragm, causing shortness of breath and other discomforts for mom.
I’ve found that a simple, effective way to ease these common, yet often debilitating, pregnancy pains is through kinesiology taping. Also called simply “taping,” the process includes using cotton adhesive strips stretched around the skin or a particular muscle to provide a gentle pulling or lifting force. How and where the tape is applied and the direction of pull impacts how it will provide benefit to mom.
In pregnant women, taping is most commonly used across the lower belly for support, creating a sling or belt around her body to help evenly distribute the weight of a growing belly (and baby). Many women report nearly immediate relief from the exhaustion of carrying the extra weight once the additional support is applied. The tape can also be applied across the back and legs for aching and swelling, decreasing pain. Each woman’s pregnancy is different so taping is often unique to the patient and her presentation. Her needs will change often as the baby grows and the shape of her body changes.
Taping can also be beneficial for pregnant women suffering from sciatica, a painful condition caused by the additional weight of an expanding uterus. As the baby grows, it applies pressure on the sciatic nerve in the lower part of the spine, causing lower back pain during pregnancy. When the baby prepares for birth and begins shifting into position in the third trimester, it can rest directly on the nerve, causing a shooting pain throughout the backside and legs. Taping can be beneficial in providing additional support to the area and increasing blood flow to the surrounding muscles, greatly easing pain.
Many pregnant women feel a dramatic improvement in pain and increased support as soon as taping is applied. Ladies can keep it on for days and maintain lower levels of discomfort during that time. While most women experience aches and pains entering the third trimester, some may benefit from taping as early as the first. It’s simple, non-invasive, and just may offer your key to enjoying a pain-free end to your pregnancy, allowing you to focus on what matters most—welcoming your newest addition.