If you are a mummy-to-be, it may come as a shock to you that around 80% women actually experiences back pain during the 9 pregnancy months. Why? During your pregnancy you are gaining weight, your body’s center of gravity is changing and the ligaments in your pelvis are softening up and relaxing.
The good news is that your baby is growing inside you and that is a sign of good health. But still, dealing with back pain may proved to be a challenging and tough task. Although it might be difficult to prevent this back ache, there are many methods which can help to relieve back pain during pregnancy.
Usually, back pain can be experienced in the second half of the pregnancy. This back pain does not necessarily occur during the last months when the baby is at its full growth weight. Some women, in fact feel this pain much earlier on, sometimes even before they miss their period. Back pain as a sign of early pregnancy may be a cause of concern in these women. A few women may feel this pain even after delivery but the post-partum pain usually resolves after a few months.
Cause Of Lower Back Pain During Pregnancy
Typically, the location where back pain occurs in pregnant women is the region of the sacroiliac joint. This is the region where your pelvis meets your spine. There can be many possible reasons why this pain would occur. Here are a few causes that may lead to back pain in pregnancy:
- Excessive weight gain: Any healthy pregnancy can result in a weight gain of approximately 20-30 pounds in a woman. This weight is entirely placed on your spine as the center of gravity in your body shifts. The weight of the growing uterus and the developing baby is compounded to put this excessive strain on your spine resulting in back pain.
- Changes in posture: The expanding uterus causes the center of gravity of your body to shift. This is because the center of gravity starts to move forward hence altering your posture. So even without you noticing, you begin to change your posture and the way you walk. This puts exert strain on your back.
- Hormonal changes: During pregnancy, your body is going through a lot of hormonal changes. A few hormones like oestrogen, progesterone and prolactin are essential for the growth of your baby. Another hormone called relaxin is also produced during pregnancy. This is the important hormone that helps to make the pelvic joints and ligaments lax and soft. The reason for these changes is necessary to aid in the process of the delivery of the baby. These changes in the ligaments begin while the baby is still in the uterus usually after the first half of the pregnancy has passed. However this hormone can also act on the ligaments and tendons present in the spine and lead to instability and pain.
- Muscle changes: In some women, the expansion of the uterus causes the muscle present in your abdomen called the rectus sheath to be separated along a central seam. The rectus abdominis, also known as the “abs” is a parallel sheet of muscles that connect your ribcage to your pelvis. This separation may result in back ache.
- Stress: Pregnancy can be the most emotional phase of a woman’s life. This stress may take a toll on their bodies in a negative way. It has been observed that emotional stress can result in back spasms or back ache. This is also the reason why women complain of back ache during the most stressful times in their pregnancy.
How To Relieve Back Pain During Pregnancy?
Although it is not possible to prevent it completely, you can still reduce the intensity and frequency of back pain. Here are a few ways which can help you prevent or ease the back pain felt during pregnancy
- Fix your posture
As your baby grows and your centre of gravity shifts, you may not be able to notice how your posture is automatically changing. You may begin to slouch. This change of posture is what triggers the back ache that you feel during pregnancy. All pregnant women should try and adopt certain ways to “fix” this change of posture. A few principles that they might want to keep in mind are:
- Stand up with your back straightened up
- Hold your chest high and do not let your body sag
- Keep your shoulders towards the back and stay relaxed
- Do not lock your knees together
- Observe caution while sitting or standing
The best way to keep a good posture is to be comfortable when you stand instead of letting the baby weigh you down. Avoid standing for prolonged periods of time and try to use a stool to rest your feet. While sitting, prop your feet on a low stool and support your lower back with a pillow.
- Wear the right attire
There is a reason why the stores sell a separate range of maternity wear products. Choosing the right attire does not only revolve around wearing loose and comfortable clothes. Some women even find the use of a maternity belt very helpful.
- Avoid wearing high heels
Everything from your head to toe will matter. Wear soft comfortable shoes that low heeled with a good arch support. High heels can tamper the posture of your body and put extra strain on your spine.
- Be careful while lifting objects
Your physician might not have prescribed complete bed rest during your pregnancy but that does not mean that you do not observe caution in your everyday task. One of the best tips for escaping the woes of back pain is to avoid lifting heavy objects. It is difficult for mothers who might be going through their second or third pregnancy to completely avoid lifting objects. So when lifting a small object bend down and lift with your legs. This squatting position will avoid the weight of the object to fall on your back or pelvis. But it is always important to recognize your limits during pregnancy. Ask for help whenever necessary.
- Adopt a comfortable sleeping posture
Your posture is important not only while standing up but also while you are resting. When going to sleep, try sleeping on your side instead of your back. Keeping one or both of your knees bent will help too. Using pregnancy pillows to support your knees, abdomen and back may be of help to relieve the back ache.
- Get a pregnancy massage
Sometimes taking a satisfying pregnancy massage may be able to help relieve your back pain. It helps to relax you physically and may be good for the pregnancy stress. However, make sure you consult your doctor before opting for a pregnancy massage.
- Heat or cold therapy
Many pregnant women may be relieved of their back ache with the help of heat packs applied directly to their back or even using icepacks helps sometimes. Start applying cold packs for a period of 20 minutes two or three times daily for a day or two. Then shift to heating pads or a hot water bottle to the painful areas only.
It is unhealthy for a pregnant woman to stay in bed all day. Limiting your daily activities does not involve being bed bound. A regular physical exercise routine during pregnancy is in fact very healthy. Some exercises like walking, swimming or stationary exercises are very good for relieving and preventing back pain.
- Ample hydration
The importance of hydration to our body cannot be adequately stressed and during pregnancy it becomes even more important. Water is important for the healthy functioning of our body. A few pregnant women may complain of back pain due to a urinary tract infection and this hydration may be able to flush it out and relieve the pain.
Sometimes, back pain during pregnancy uncontrolled by other measures may be a cause of great discomfort. These pregnant women may consider joining a group for pregnant women or talk to a counselor or trusted friend to seek help.
When traditional pain relieving tactics does not seem to work, some pregnant women may want to opt for acupuncture. It is a Chinese therapy where thin needles are inserted at certain locations. Various studies have shown that this type of alternative medicine is very useful for lower back pain during pregnancy.
You may seek the help of a chiropractitioner to help relieve the back ache experienced. Chiropractor manipulation is safe during pregnancy if performed correctly. But you may want to seek the advice of your physician before seeking chiropractor services.
- Pain medications
There are a few over the counter pain medication that can safely be used during pregnancy. Some medicines like acetaminophen can be used to help relive the back pain during pregnancy. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are not prescribed during pregnancy. So consult your doctor first.
- Know when to consult a doctor
Although back pain is a common symptom experienced by most pregnant women, chronic back pain should not be taken lightly. Consult your doctor if your back pain lasts more than two weeks. He may be able to prescribe medications, better therapies or investigate the affecting cause and relieve back pain during pregnancy.