Pregnancy and Back Pain

Written by Bob O'Grady on . Posted in Blog

Pregnancy has its perks for your body, like excellent skin and good nails. But most women don’t have any illusions about the discomfort they’ll face as well. Along with heartburn, morning sickness, and stretch marks, most women will cope with back pain at some point during their pregnancy.

In the blog below, we’ll talk about why back pain happens during pregnancy and how, under your doctor’s supervision, you can relieve that pain.  

Why Does Pregnancy Cause Back Pain?

Back pain can occur at any point during pregnancy, but most women experience it in their second and third trimesters. If you have pre-existing back problems like lordosis, you might experience back pain earlier in the first trimester.

Typically, back pain in pregnancy happens for the following reasons:

  • Changing center of gravity. As you gain weight during pregnancy, your center of gravity shifts forward. This shift can cause you to unconsciously lean backwards, putting additional pressure on your back.
  • Ligament-loosening hormones. Your body produces the hormone relaxin to loosen your joints for labor and delivery. However, this hormone can also loosen the ligaments in your spine, causing your back to ache.
  • Stress and muscle strain. Whether this is your first pregnancy or your fourth, you probably experience periods of emotional stress related to your pregnancy. This stress in turn causes you to tense some of your muscles, and the tenseness increases your back pain.
  • Weight gain. The more weight you gain, the more weight your spine has to support, which leads to lower back (lumbar) pain.

In most cases, if your back aches during pregnancy, you don’t need to panic—your baby is developing normally, and the accompanying hormones and weight gain cause necessary changes to your body. However, you don’t need to suffer silently through back pain either.

How Can You Address Pregnancy-Related Back Pain?

If you experience back pain, talk to your doctor first for treatment recommendations. He or she can help you tailor certain exercises or pain-relieving techniques to your unique situation. Typically, your doctor will probably recommend that you implement one or more of the following pain-relieving strategies.

Regular Exercise

Exercise both increases your flexibility and strengthens your muscles so your back can handle the additional strain from pregnancy. Depending on their individual situation, pregnant women can benefit from exercises like swimming, stationary cycling, and walking. Certain safe yoga postures can also improve your flexibility and strengthen your back.

Always remember to consult your doctor before implementing any exercise regimen.

Good Posture

If you’re like most Americans, you probably tended to slouch forward before you were pregnant. During pregnancy, this tendency becomes more pronounced and can cause additional pain and strain. You’ll probably have to pay extra attention to your posture while you’re pregnant to avoid falling into old habits.

During pregnancy, take care not to slouch while you’re seated. Resist the urge to learn backwards to compensate for your changing center of gravity—try to stand up straight whenever possible. When you stand, avoid locking your knees, and relax your shoulders and back instead of forcing them forward or backward.

You should also try not to stay in one position for too long. If you sit at work, take walking breaks; if you stand at work, take sitting breaks. If you can, invest in an ergonomic chair with excellent lumbar support. If your back hurts at night, ask your doctor if you should rest on your left side or with a supportive pillow in between your knees.  

Ice and Heat

Proper application of ice or heat packs can reduce any swelling in your back. However, you should always ask your doctor about the right way to apply heat or ice and how often to alternate between the two. Remember to never place heat directly against your abdomen during pregnancy.

Other Techniques

You can also try the following recommendations to reduce back pain:

  • Ask about massage and chiropractic care. In some situations, a licensed massage therapist or chiropractor could help alleviate your pain and muscle strain. Follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to chiropractic and massage.
  • Dress appropriately. High heels take a toll on your back even when you’re not pregnant. Avoid high heels during pregnancy—invest in a professional pair of flats with good arch support instead.
  • Lift correctly. Instead of bending forward to pick up heavy objects, squat down and use your legs to lift.
  • Seek counseling. If emotional stress causes you to tense up, you could benefit from visiting a therapist and talking through some of your worries. Lessened anxiety and good coping techniques can mean lessened back pain.

Depending on your pain level, your doctor could prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication at a safe dosage for you and your growing baby.

When Should You Seek Additional Help?

In rare cases, pregnant women can develop sciatica. Consult your doctor if you experience back pain, plus any symptoms like numbness or tingling in your lower back and buttocks or pain in your legs. Your doctor might recommend a specialist to treat your symptoms.

No matter the extent of your back pain, remember that it’s okay to consult your doctor about anything that concerns you. Your comfort and safety are your doctor’s top priorities, so don’t hesitate to mention any pain and ask for advice. With the right exercises and other pain-management techniques from your doctor, you can make it through your pregnancy with a healthy, happy back.