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Top Solutions for Heartburn / Reflux + Rib Pain

Posted by Jesse Lillejord on
We are known for helping women with their aches and pains, especially during their pregnancy journeys. CHIRO FOR MOMS also has tools to help combat other common battles during pregnancy ~ like heartburn / acid reflux + rib pain.  
Pregnancy heartburn
 As baby grows and starts to push up on the diaphragm, ribs, and esophagus, pregnant women often experience reflux symptoms and rib pain. This is partially due to the connection between the stomach and the esophagus that lives in the diaphragm [ big muscle under our rib cage ]!
Diaphragm pain pregnancy
Let's get right to it - below our our top solutions to help combat heartburn + reflux during pregnancy: 
1. Soft Tissue Techniques + Stretches 
The video below showcases techniques for reflux + diaphragm pain.
The primary goal is to create space and reduce tension in the area. 
You may find it helpful to use these before and after meals or whenever you are experiencing symptoms!


2. Chiropractic Adjustments
Chiropractic adjustments are known for helping to reduce pain and treat musculoskeletal conditions. One important piece that is often not discussed is the impact of adjustments on the nervous system, and in turn all of the organ systems that nerves control! A large portion of the nervous system is housed in the spinal column and these nerves exit the column at various spots in order to travel to organs and communicate information and instructions. The upper and middle back adjustments can be useful for those experiencing reflux, since that is where these nerves exit. 


How can chiropractic adjustment help? 
— Reduce pain + treat the musculoskeletal component to pain
— Restore communication between the nerves exiting the spinal column and organs they instruct 
— Stomach communication stems from the upper neck and the mid-back making these areas especially important when battling reflux 
{shown below is Dr. Paige treating a pregnant patient with a thoracic [mid back] adjustment}


Female chiropractor


3. Stay Hydrated + Eat Small But Frequent Meals
When we eat bigger meals, our stomachs expand. For someone battling reflux, this only makes it more difficult for the lower esophageal sphincter to close tightly, which leads to stomach contents going into the esophagus + causing heartburn. Picture your stomach like a bag, with the sphincter being the zipper. If the bag is too full the zipper won’t shut. If you put less in the bag, the zipper will close securely and nothing will fall out! Aim for 6 small meals throughout the day. Try to incorporate a carb, fat, and protein at each meal + diversify your nutrition! 
In the same way that food can fill your stomach, so can water. Stay hydrated during this time, but take smaller sips of water rather than guzzling a cup at once. 
4. Left Side Lying Stretch 
Your stomach is located on your left side, right below the rib cage. Because of the stomach’s shape and connection to the esophagus, sleeping on your left side can greatly reduce reflux with the help of gravity.  You can also use a wedge or some pillows to prop yourself up on your left side and reach above your head - lengthening the side body. This is depicted in the image below! 
Heartburn relief pregnancy
5. Sifting 
Rebozo sifting or "belly sifting" is a technique designed to encourage a more optimal baby position. It can also be used to create space in belly + the diaphragm and relieve heartburn / reflux symptoms!
How to perform the technique: 
- wrap a scarf or blanket around belly entirely from the base to the top
- stand in a wide leg stance above the pelvis 
- gently traction up on belly, lifting the belly with the scarf 
- using your arms, lift side to side to create space and relieve pressure 


**Note: this technique is not appropriate for mamas with an anterior placenta. Consult with your health care provider before performing this technique at home.**
Heartburn relief pregnancy
6. Belly Taping 
Taping “how to’s”:
- we like to round off the edges of our tape to prevent the ends from peeling up. This is also why we use anchor or brace pieces
- give the tap a 20-30% stretch when applying so it has a ‘lifting’ or ‘pulling’ action into the tissues
- tape should last around 1 week, but take it off if you have any discomfort or irritation  
Taping for diaphragm / heartburn:
Start at the top of your belly in the middle [below your sternum] and pull down and out to the side to wrap around your belly!
See video below for full demonstration: 

7. Papaya Enzyme
Digestive enzymes help us break down food. We can take supplemental versions of these digestive enzymes that are derived from plants + animals. One of these is papaya enzymes or papain.
The enzyme can help occasional heartburn symptoms, like those that arise during pregnancy.
When looking for supplements you want to be mindful that it is well sourced and has no artificial additives or preservatives. Some papaya enzymes have added sugar, which is also something to consider when purchasing. 

Rib Pain: 

As belly grows, the ribs get shoved upward to make room for baby. This can cause rib pain that often begins in the back and wraps around to the side [ under boobs ]! Below we discuss some helpful stretches to try at home to relieve this type of pain! 
Rib pain pregnancy
** Rib pain relief is all about incorporating thoracic extension ** 
1. Goal Post : standing or seated, extend backwards with your arms in a ‘goal post’ position
2. Interlace Fingers: interlace fingers behind your back with shoulders rolled down and back from your ears. 
3. Tennis ball Release: using a tennis ball against a wall, roll over any tender spots. Feel free to reach across your body in order to get your shoulder blade out of the way
4. Foam roll release:
— Use the foam roller vertical similar to the tennis ball technique to roll side-to-side over tender spots
— Use the foam roller horizontally to roll up and down through the mid back and create movement
5. Side body stretch: while on your knees, use a chair, sofa, or exercise ball to reach your arms in front of you. Sit back on your feet to stretch through your entire side body. For a deeper stretch reach arms toward one side and sit back towards to opposite. 
6. Pec stretch: bend your shoulder and elbow to 90 degrees and use a doorway or wall to stretch the front aspect of your shoulder girdle. 
See video below for full demonstration: 
 *** As always don't hesitate to reach out with questions /// thoughts surrounding this topic! ***
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