Q: I am a 31 year old female. Twice now I have encountered back pain in the mid section of my back on the left side. The first time, I sought help from a chiropractor, physical therapist and eventually a massage therapist. All told me the problem was that the left side of my rib cage had shifted back and was irritating those particular muscles of my back. After months of physical therapy, the massage therapist corrected the problem with one  visit (although pricey).  I am now 6 months pregnant and the pain is back. I saw the massage therapist and she confirmed my ribs had shifted once again. One session did not correct the problem. Before I spend a lot of money on massage therapy or physical therapy, have you heard of this before, and could a brace be one way to pre-empt the problem and be a preventive measure from my ribs shifting out of  place in the first place?
---Lisa (10/1/08)

A: It is possible that you are describing back spasm problems, which create painful muscle cramps. The cramped muscles can give the appearance that the ribs have "shifted". They don't, as although they are mobile, they are firmly attached and part of a complex web of muscles, all of which can change posture and muscle tension.

A chiropractor can often treat the symptoms with some success, but the underlying cause is incorrect posture and unbalanced use of your back, such as from pregnancy itself, but also from carrying a child on one hip while tending to household chores with the other arm, as many mothers do. Through repeated events of this nature, the muscles and tendons develop sensitivities that promote recurrence. Small events are sometimes sufficient, causing unnatural postures to "prevent" it, and this actually adds to the problem.

The first course of action is analyze and change posture habits especially during lifting, reaching and bending. Avoid any sustained efforts while bend sideways, e.g., do not lift anything unless you're square in front of it!

Since you are pregnant, I would suggest a modern pregnancy corset, as it will provide support and reduce muscle strain and protect the ligaments. Many pregnant women have good experiences with these.

If you were not pregnant a properly fitted laced corset as an aid is a good idea, as it will discourage or inhibit sideways bending at the waist. It will also protect the back and act as a continuous posture reminder.

Moderate lacing is sufficient to produce these benefits.


Return to Main Medical Advice Page

Return to LISA's Main Page