Common Orthopedic Conditions a Pregnant Woman Must be Aware of

While pregnancy changes a woman’s body to a large extent, it also adds a lot of stress on her bones. So, it is not just a gynecologist that you may need to consult while in pregnancy, but you may also need an orthopedic doctor.

Lower Back Pain
Plantar Fasciitis
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Meralgia Paresthetica
Transient Osteoporosis of the Hip
Osteitis Pubis

Following are some of the common orthopedic conditions that affect pregnant women:

  1. Lower Back Pain
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Lower back pain is a very common occurrence in pregnancy. This happens because of the uneven distribution of weight due to managing the weight of the baby. 

Although treating lower back pain during pregnancy can be challenging, complications rarely persist after the baby is born. Having a strong back before pregnancy can help you plan for the physiological changes that will occur in pregnancy. 

Back-strengthening exercises done in the first and second trimesters can also pay off in the second half of your pregnancy. However, it should be kept in mind that exercises done during pregnancy can require modifications; therefore it is important to consult your orthopedic doctor and gynecologist first.

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  1. Plantar Fasciitis 
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The plantar fascia is a thick, web-like ligament that links the back of your foot to the front. It helps you walk by serving as a shock absorber and protecting the arch of your foot.

Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition caused by inflammation of the fascia that affects the bottom of the heels. This pain is typically caused by weight gain during pregnancy. Most pregnant women experience shooting pain in the morning. 

Home treatments with ice, shoe inserts, or getting a foot massage can help. If the pain is intense, cortisone injections may be given to help relieve the pain and improve mobility.

  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve compression, is a condition in which the hand feels numb, tingly, or sluggish. It occurs as a result of pressure on the median nerve, which runs the length of the arm, passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, and ends in the hand.

The retention of fluids during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester, may alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome. It can be made even more difficult if there is excessive weight gain.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated with night splints, ice packs or cortisone injections. Following the birth of the infant, the condition usually improves.

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  1. Meralgia Paresthetica

Meralgia paresthetica is a condition in which you experience tingling, numbness and burning pain in the outer part of your thigh. It is a comparatively uncommon disease, but it is found mostly in pregnant women and obese people.

This numbness or tingling sensation in the thigh is caused by the compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, which supplies sensation to the upper leg.

The pressure against the nerve can cause a noticeable patch of numbness, tingling or burning sensation in the thigh, as the baby grows. Cortisone injections around the nerves can help if symptoms get severe.

  1. Transient Osteoporosis of the Hip

When the femoral head weakens and loses density, it is called transient osteoporosis of the hip. Often occurring in late-term pregnancy, this condition can weaken the hip joint due to temporary bone loss. 

Causes of transient osteoporosis of the hip include obstruction of blood vessels, hormones and carrying excessive weight. Eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and all nutrients, consuming NSAIDs, and using a walker can help in the treatment of this condition.

  1. Osteitis Pubis

Osteitis pubis is the condition that causes inflammation of the lower front portion of the pelvis (also called pubic symphysis) where the right and left pubic bones intersect. The pelvis is a group of bones that connects the lower body to the upper body. 

Due to added weight and location of the developing infant, the intersection of these major bones may become inflamed during pregnancy. Hormonal changes that cause ligaments to become laxer in preparation for childbirth may also affect the ligaments in this region.

Application of Ice packs and heat packs, consuming NSAIDs, and resting can help relieve groin pain and inflammation caused by osteitis pubis.

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Are Ex-Athletes at a Higher Risk of Joint Pain Later in Life?

It is often noticed that athletes get injured in their dedication for sports and overuse their joints in the course of their career. Repetitive movements of the joints can lead to physical stress and gradually in wearing away of the cartilage.

When it comes to answering the main question, many research studies have found out that ex-athletes do have a higher risk of joint pain later in their lives. The main reason for happening so is the overuse of the joints and the inevitable injuries

But this cannot overshadow the fact that athletes are one of the healthiest people in the world and their physical activity prevents them from diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks, etc.

Along with stating this, one should not lose hope and consider that nothing can be done as far as diseases like arthritis are concerned. With proper care and precautions, athletes can keep their joints fit and intact.

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How can athletes prevent themselves from joint pain later in their lives?

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The thing that naturally comes into our minds when thinking of preventing pain is preventing injuries. In the course of their profession, athletes should steer clear of injuries as much as possible by wearing all safety equipment during the match as well as in practice. 

Warming up and stretching before the game can prepare the muscles, ligaments, and tendons for the exertion and reduce the risk of injury. Cooling down after the game is equally important. It is also often observed that athletes rush back to playing even with injuries. Doing so can cause serious life-long damage to the joints.

Athletes should also pay attention to the symptoms and signs that appear and work towards getting them fixed in time. Most common symptoms include:

  • Joint pain: If you experience joint pain after overuse or inactivity of the joints suddenly, it is a sign that the cartilages are wearing away and should be taken care of.
  • Joint stiffness: If you feel stiffness in your joints in the period of inactivity but it starts to feel better with movement, then it is advised that you don’t ignore it and seek help to prevent any further damage.
  • Morning joint stiffness:  Experiencing stiffness in joints after waking up in the morning can be a sign of arthritis. One should get a check-up as soon as possible in such cases.

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What increases the risk of joint problems?

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Though the cartilages wear away on their own, there may be certain specific reasons that can lead to this problem. Some of them are given below:

  • Being overweight: Excess weight puts additional stress on joints, particularly on the knees, causing joint pain and increasing the risk of arthritis.
  • Previous injury to a joint: According to a research study, an estimated 15 percent of osteoarthritis cases can be traced back to a previous injury. Therefore, if you have had a bone fracture or any joint injury, it may lead to joint pain in later life.
  • Hereditary factors: Many studies have associated genetic and environmental factors with an increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Family history of RA has been found as one of the strongest associations concerning joint pains.
  • Certain diseases: Certain diseases like Gout affect joints like toes, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.

How to manage Joint Pain?

  • Exercise: Practice exercises such as shoulder rolls, side bends, hip swings, hip rolls, trunk rotation, hamstring stretch and quadriceps stretch to condition your joints.
  • Adequate rest: Rest is extremely important to relieve joint pain. Scheduled rest is essential to avoid overworking of the damaged joint.
  • Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying heat using warm towels/hot water bottles or using ice packs can help in improving circulation and soothing joint pain.
  • Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy can help substantially in easing your joint pains and help you perform your activities better.
  • Medication: Over-the-counter medications and anti-inflammatory medicines can help in managing joint pains temporarily and help you in staying active.