Did you know? Around 50 to 80% of pregnant women develop back pain when they are pregnant (1). The pain usually develops in the second and third trimester, when your belly is growing.
Back pain is a common pregnancy symptom and not a cause of concern. However, the pain might adversely impact your daily routine if not managed early on. In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the causes of back pain in pregnancy, tips to prevent it and manage it better.
What Are The Causes For Back Pain During Pregnancy?
The physical changes during pregnancy, especially the growing belly, can be responsible for the back pain. Usually, women develop back pain during the seventh or eighth month, but some can have it in early pregnancy too. Causes of this pain include:
- Pregnancy hormones: The progesterone and relaxin hormones loosen the joints and ligaments and relax the muscles of the pelvic area. This makes it difficult for the body to bear the additional weight, causing back pain (2).
- Too little or too much activity: Sitting all day with no physical activity could increase the risk of back pain when you are pregnant. Also, indulging in too many physical activities during the day could result in back pain. Moderate exercise can help keep back pain away during pregnancy (3).
- Existing lumbar pain: If you have had any chronic back pain or lumbar issues before, there is a higher risk of back pain during early pregnancy. The severity of pain could also be more in such cases. Also, if you had back pain during a previous pregnancy, then the chances of experiencing it in the next pregnancy are high (3).
- Center of gravity: As the pregnancy progresses, your baby grows and the uterus starts to expand. The increase in body weight could strain and weaken your back muscles. This, combined with walking in a wrong posture, can result in back pain (2).
- Weakened abdominal muscles: As the uterus expands, the muscles at the abdomen stretch. And stretching decreases their ability to maintain body posture, thereby straining the lower back and causing pain (4).
- Disc pressure: When your weight increases in pregnancy, it puts pressure on the discs and the lumbar spine. This results in back pain during pregnancy (5).
- Sacroiliac joint pressure: The joint where pelvis and sacrum come together is called sacroiliac. The pregnancy weight puts pressure on this joint, which results in lower back pain. It could be either a dull pain or a sharp one.
Whatever might be the reason for the pain, you can manage it with some safe medicines or other practices.
How To Manage Back Pain During Pregnancy?
Back pain during pregnancy can be dealt with a few home remedies such as:
- Warm and cold compress: Both heating pads and cold compresses can help reduce back pain. However, the compress should not be too cold or too hot. Avoid using a compress on your abdomen during pregnancy.
- Medication: Doctors may prescribe opioids in the case of severe pain. However, these should be taken in limited dosages so that they do not affect your baby (3).
- Support belts: Certain pelvic belts are known to be effective in providing stability and relieving pain. These can be used to reduce severe back pain during pregnancy (3).
- Exercises: Physical activity is effective before and during pregnancy to strengthen the back, pelvic, and abdominal muscles. Also, exercising helps improve weight bearing capacity and body posture. Some of the low-intensity exercises that you can perform in the mid or later stages of the pregnancy include pelvic tilts, kegel exercises, knee pull, leg raises, and curl-ups (6).
- Alternative treatments: Some pain relief therapies that you can try during pregnancy include manual therapy, acupuncture, nerve stimulation, yoga, massage, and water therapy (7).
With a few precautions, you can even prevent back pain or discomfort during pregnancy. Find out more about it next.
How Can You Prevent Back Pain During Pregnancy?
Back pain during pregnancy is common, and it can be managed by incorporating certain lifestyle changes.
- Maintain a correct body posture to reduce back pain. Whether you are standing, sitting, or walking, you should not put some strain on your spine.
- Take rest whenever needed during the day to get relief from the acute pain and muscle spasms. Even while resting, watch your posture to prevent straining your back muscles.
- Whether you are sitting or walking around, it is important to take breaks from what you are doing so that the back is not strained.
- Avoid lifting loads as it could be strenuous and put pressure on your belly and back.
- Wear the right footwear, such as good support shoes or flats during pregnancy. Otherwise, you may strain your back.
- Sleeping on the back could also hurt your back. You may use pillows to support your belly and back, to sleep comfortably.
When To See A Doctor?
Consult your doctor if your back pain becomes severe or continues for long. Also seek medical intervention when you:
- Have a fever along with back pain
- Have pain under your ribs, on either side
- Feel weakness or numbness in your legs
- Experience excruciating pain or a tingling sensation in your feet, legs, or buttocks for a prolonged time
Although back pain is not something you need to worry about, it should not be ignored. Take care of yourself and manage the pain before it gets severe. In case of any doubt, talk to your doctor for help. Don’t let back pain affect your health or prevent you from enjoying the precious moments of pregnancy.
Did you experience back pain when you were pregnant? How did you deal with it? Share your stories with us in the comment section.
2. Back Pain in Pregnancy; University of Rochester Medical Center
3. J. Sabino and J. N. Grauer; Pregnancy and low back pain; Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine (2008)
4. J. M. Daly, P. S. Frame, and P. A. Rapoza; Sacroiliac subluxation: a common, treatable cause of low-back pain in pregnancy; Family Practice Research Journal (1991)
5. H. Jeffcoat; Pregnancy Back Pain Explained; Golden Gate Obstetrics & Gynecology (2015)
6. A. Garshasbi and S. Faghih Zadeh; The effect of exercise on the intensity of low back pain in pregnant women; International journal of gynecology and obstetrics: the official organ of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (2005)
7. S. Shah et al.; Pain Management in Pregnancy: Multimodal Approaches; Pain Research and Treatment (2015)
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