Oh baby, my aching back! – Dr. Frederic Melius
Back pain is one of the most common complaints pregnant women mention to us during OB appointments. As if the body changes associated with pregnancy weren’t uncomfortable enough, back pain reduces mobility, interrupts sleep and just make you miserable.
The main cause of pregnancy back pain is back muscle strain from the rapid growth of the fetus and uterus. As the baby grows, the uterus comes up out of the pelvis and then forward to make the baby bump. This rapid change in size and weight causes your center of gravity to move up and out. The little muscles between your vertebrae are forced to adapt quickly and sometimes they don’t like it.
Other forces that make back pain common in pregnancy include the weakening and lengthening of your abdominal muscles. These muscles play an important role in spine health. Because your baby weight is in front of your body, it’s natural to lean forward to keep balance. Sometimes, you may lean back. Either way, the new change in posture forces your little back muscles to work harder to “pick up the load’.
In addition to the above, your placenta releases hormones that relax ligaments in your pelvis. These hormones can also loosen the ligaments in your back making things even more uncomfortable.
What can you do to prevent back pain during pregnancy?
To help prevent back pain, be aware of how you stand, sit, walk and move about.
Here are some tips you can try:
- Wear shoes with good arch support. Flat shoes and high heels usually provide little support unless they have arch supports built in. High heels can further shift your balance forward and make you more likely to fall.
- Unless you have a complicated pregnancy and have been told to avoid physical activity, you should get regular exercise. Exercise has many benefits for pregnant women and is one of the best ways to relieve back pain. Exercises strengthen and stretch muscles that support the back and legs and promote good posture, keeping the muscles of the back, abdomen, hips, and upper body strong. Exercises not only help ease back pain but also help strengthen you for labor and delivery.
Walking and water exercise are gentle and fun ways to ease back pain.
We also highly recommend Yoga Moms led by our Certified Nurse Midwife Christine Kern Steffen. Give us a call or pick up a pamphlet at your next appointment to learn more about her classes.
- There are lots of great on-line resources to help you learn more about specific stretches and exercises that are helpful in pregnancy.
- Consider a firm mattress. A firm mattress may be more supportive for your back during pregnancy.
- Practice proper lifting technique. Squat down, bend your knees, and keep your back straight.
- Sit in chairs with good back support. You might even use a standing desk if available at work. You can also try putting your feet underneath your chair to better align your spine while sitting. The key is to frequently change positions. You may also benefit from lumbar supports that are available at office and medical-supply stores.
- Maternity belts and belly bands can help by distributing some of your uterine weight to a larger area of your back. They can be hot and not terribly attractive but many women say they provide amazing relief. Maternity shops allow you to
- Try sleeping on your side with one or two pillows between your legs or under your abdomen for support.
- Heat, cold, and massage therapy can help and chiropractic care is often helpful as well.
- Even if you try all the above, your back may still give you trouble. In severe cases, we often refer our patients to a Physical Therapist for help.
Backache is one of the most common discomforts of pregnancy. Thankfully the above strategies help most pregnancy back pain and help you to stay healthy during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.