Back Pain During Pregnancy
Back pain or discomfort is common during pregnancy and should be expected to some degree by most women. Back pain may be experienced during any point of your pregnancy however, it most commonly occurs later in pregnancy as baby grows.Back pain can disrupt your daily routine or interfere with a good night of sleep. The good news is there are steps you can take to manage the back pain that you experience.
Back Pain Has A Trigger
While not always the case, you can often identify what you were doing earlier in the day that may have triggered back pain. You may have been on your feet for too long, slept poorly, or lifted something that resulted in a muscle tear. Labor pains tend to come on without a specific trigger, whereas back pain is a chronic condition.
When To Go To The Doctor
Back pain is a very common symptom during pregnancy and, most of the time, is not a sign of any serious problem.
However, it is recommended to visit a doctor if the pain remains after trying all natural strategies to get rid of it or if it gets so intense that it makes it impossible to carry out simple daily activities. In addition, it is also advisable to seek medical help if the pain occurs suddenly or if it comes with other symptoms, such as nausea or breathlessness.
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Book A Physical Therapy Appointment
Physical therapists, in addition to treating acute injuries, help pregnant women work through back pain by manipulating joints, muscles, and nerve pressure points and providing exercises that expectant moms can continue at home. Rick Olderman, M.S.P.T., a Denver-based physical therapist and the author of Fixing You: Back Pain During Pregnancy, says that one of his goals is to educate patients by “teaching them how to walk, sit, stand, bend forward, lie down, and exercise” in a healthy, back-supporting way.
One thing he does is placing tape on the backs of pregnant women’s knees to “remind them to unlock their knees,” a habit that can put pressure on the large muscles of the legs and hip joints and the back, he says. Because women’s joints become lax as a result of hormonal changes, Olderman also helps show women the importance of limiting their joints’ ranges of motion to about 75 percent. “It may feel good to stretch, but the tissue stress becomes greater,” he says, and can actually exacerbate pain. Some health insurance plans cover physical therapy, which is not always the case with other complementary therapies.
What Can I Do To Relieve My Pregnancy Backaches
I’m 7 months pregnant and my back is killing me! How can I get some relief? Fiona
Many pregnant women have achy backs as their bellies grow larger and their muscles and spine strain to carry the extra weight.
During pregnancy, the body also produces the hormone relaxin, which helps prepare the body for childbirth. One of the effects of relaxin is the loosening of ligaments throughout the body, making pregnant women less stable and more prone to injury, especially in their backs.
Here are some ways to help ease your back pain:
Back pain also can be a sign of something else, like labor starting or a urinary tract infection . If you have any questions or concerns, severe pain, pain that isn’t getting better, or other symptoms, talk to your doctor.
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Path To Improved Well Being
There are several causes of back pain during pregnancy. These are due to changes that occur in your body.
Pressure on back muscles
As your baby grows, your uterus expands and becomes heavier. This puts added weight on your back muscles. You may find yourself leaning backward or arching your low back. The pressure can lead to back pain or stiffness.
Weakness in stomach muscles
Your growing baby also puts pressure on your stomach muscles. This can cause them to stretch and weaken. Your stomach and back muscles are connected. Your back muscles have to work harder to offset your belly.
Pregnancy can alter your center of gravity. The way you move, sit, and stand can cause pain to your back and other parts of your body. A compressed nerve due to poor posture also can cause pain.
Many hormones change when you are pregnant for different reasons. Later in your pregnancy, hormones increase to relax the muscles and ligaments in your pelvis. This prepares your body for labor. If your muscles and ligaments become too loose, it can lead to back pain.
Anxiety and built-up tension can make your back muscles tight or stiff.
To help prevent back pain, be mindful of how you sit, stand, sleep, and move.
If you have back pain, these tips can help relieve soreness and stiffness.
What Are Some Symptoms Of Back Pain During Pregnancy
The symptoms of back pain during pregnancy are very similar to the symptoms of back pain prior to pregnancy. Some of the symptoms include:
- Pain in the center of your back
- Pain above or at the sides of the waistline
- Pain over the pubic bone
- Pain in the buttocks or thighs
- Pain that can radiate to the legs
- Stiffness or discomfort after sitting or standing for long period of time
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Strap On A Maternity Belt
If you have pelvic girdle pain around your middle lower back and hips, a maternity belt may relieve your pain. This support garment does the work of the ligaments, muscles and fascia of the girdle area, explains Richter. But, she cautions, it should not be worn all of the time, because those muscles will stop working and will need to be retrained after you have your baby. I usually recommend that clients wear them during more taxing activitiessuch as activities with lots of bending, lifting, walking or standingjust so theyre not in discomfort, she explains. And then I give them exercises to try and resolve the issue.
Mickeler warns against wearing the belts too tightly, which can contribute to pelvic organ prolapse. Because of this, its best to have a practitioner guide you on how to use one.
Back Pain Is Common During Pregnancy But Can Be Lessened
Back pain is a common part of pregnancy, especially in the later months. If youre pregnant, back pain may be making your life miserable.
Dont dismiss the aches and pain as simply part of your condition, however. Consider the many things you can do to avoid or relieve back pain during pregnancy.
Many pregnant women can ease their back pain through postural awareness and exercises that relieve back strain, says Kerrie Adams, MD, an OB-GYN at Scripps Clinic Hillcrest. But if your back pain persists, seek medical attention. Your doctor can help determine the cause of your pain and ways to address it.
Women should consult with their health care provider before starting any new medications or treatments for any pregnancy-related discomfort, Dr. Adams adds.
Causes of back pain during pregnancy
Several factors can contribute to back pain during pregnancy, including weight changes, pregnancy hormones, and a shift in posture.
The hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy cause ligament laxity, especially where the pelvis and spine connect. This happens to prepare passage of the baby through the birth canal but can lead to joint instability and cause back pain.
As the weight of the baby increases, so does the pressure on the spine and pelvic areas. Women typically gain between 25- and 35-pounds during pregnancy.
There is also a change in your center of gravity during pregnancy due to your expanding uterus, which can cause postural changes and put stress on your back.
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Wide Squat With Twist
How these help ease back pain: Another hip opener, but this one also incorporates a back twist which feels really good to the spine. Also, by pressing your straight arms against your knees, you create length in your spine.
How to do this exercise: Step your feet nice and wide and squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Place your hands on your thighs just above your knees and keep your elbows straight. Turn your shoulders towards one side and look over your shoulder. Only twist as much as you can without turning your belly. The straighter you keep your arms, the more you will elongate your spine, so think of length as you twist.
How many? 3 sets of a 30-second hold per side
Strengthen Your Abdominal Muscles
Sit-ups arent exactly a pregnancy-friendly exercise. To strengthen your abdominal muscles, do the following exercises a few days a week. Remember that lightweight is recommended, and you should never push yourself too hard during pregnancy.
Simply using and moving your muscles will help to strengthen them sufficiently.
- Abdominal twists: Place your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees so you are in a half-squat. Do not squat too deeply, and if you feel any discomfort, make your squat more shallow. Holding a lightweight in each hand against your chest, twist at the waist from side to side. Do not wildly swing your body, but instead maintain control and squeeze your abdominal muscles as you twist back and forth.
- Upper cuts: Standing again in a partial-squat position with light weights, make an upper-cut punching motion while twisting slightly at the waist. Keep your abs tight. You can also do this exercise without weights.
- Knee lifts: Stand up with your hands on your hips. Raise your knee in a slow and controlled motion, making sure you are lifting with your abdominals. If you can do so comfortably, crunch forward slightly as your knee comes up to work your abs harder. If you have trouble with balance, you can do this exercise while standing against a wall.
Remember to always consult with your doctor before attempting these exercises and make sure you do not have any risk factors that could prevent you from performing these exercises.
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First Trimester Back Pain
Early in your pregnancy, your uterus is just gearing up. Changing levels of hormones, specifically increasing levels of the hormone progesterone which is the hormone that maintains the pregnancy cause ligaments in the pelvic region to loosen a bit which results in your muscles adjusting leading to instability of your joints and this can result in back pain as your body shifts.
Its also common to experience cramping during early pregnancy, which can often be lower back pain. Although pregnancy is known as a happy event, stress levels can increase during this time and present as physical symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, and muscle pain commonly presenting as back pain.
Physical Therapy And Exercise
Conservative measures such as exercises were evaluated in 14 RCTs, one non-randomized trial and one case series . Seven studies reported benefit , while the rest did not . Similarly, PGP was reported to improve with pelvic tilt and stabilization exercises , but not with truncal exercises . Three studies did not show the benefit of exercise with PGP .
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Second Trimester Back Pain
Second-trimester back pain typically occurs during the latter half of this trimester, after 20 weeks Just to keep in mind, this can be a bit confusing due to the fact that mothers come in different shapes and sizes.
Patients who I have seen that are already overweight during pregnancy can have second trimester back pain even before 20 weeks. By this time, youve likely gained enough weight that its starting to put stress on your body, resulting in back pain.
Ways To Ease Back Pain During Pregnancy
Brian Levine, MD, MS, is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology as well as in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.
Low back pain and pelvic pain are among the most common problems that occur during pregnancy if you are pregnant and experiencing these symptoms, read on, you’re not alone. About half of pregnant women will complain of significant low back pain symptoms. The changes your body experiences during pregnancy are dramatic, and these physiologic changes can cause unexpected pain and difficulty with seemingly normal activities.
Contrary to popular belief, back pain is not only a problem later in pregnancy. In fact, the incidence of back pain during pregnancy peaks around 18-24 weeks. While the added weight of the developing fetus is a large component of why pregnant women develop these symptoms, it is not the only reason. A complex set of physiologic changes in the body can contribute to the development of lower back symptoms.
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An Ounce Of Back Pain Prevention
If you already have back pain problems, pregnancy is likely to make them worse. So if pregnancy is in your near future, nows the time to plan, Dr. Stephens says.
Before you ditch birth control, consider taking up exercisesdesigned to strengthen your core, she says. And women who are overweight are athigher risk of back pain in pregnancy, so talk to your doctor about aweight-loss plan before trying to conceive. If youre already expecting, save theseprevention tips for your next pregnancy and keep reading for ways to getrelief this time around.
What Causes Severe Back Pain During Pregnancy 5 Causes
During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin. This hormone is a very important hormone in pregnancy because it allows the ligaments in the joints of the pelvic area to relax and prepares your body for the whole birthing process.
The downside is that this same hormone can also cause the ligaments which support the spine to loosen and create instability, causing you severe back pain.
Weight gain is a given in pregnancy. Women typically gain about 25 35 pounds, which is completely normal in a healthy pregnancy.
The side-effect of weight gain is that the spine has to make some serious adjustments in order to support the weight of your growing baby.
The baby and uterus also put added pressure on the nerves and blood vessels around the back and pelvis area, which can cause severe back pain.
Center of Gravity Changes
Your body is starting to gain weight which causes a change in your center of gravity.
As your baby grows, your center of gravity will start shifting forward . This puts a lot of strain on your back as you try to overcompensate your muscles to stay balanced.
So many things change in your body during pregnancy which can lead to emotional stress. Its been proven that our emotions can affect us physically too.
This can cause unnecessary tension in the back to where you may experience muscle spasms and back pain.
Muscle Separation AKA Diastasis Recti
As your uterus expands so does your rectal abdominal muscles.
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Treatment For Early Back Pain During Pregnancy
No matter what stage of your pregnancy youre in, there are ways to treat back pain. You probably wont be able to prevent it completely, but you can help to minimize the pain.
Follow these tips for reducing back pain throughout your pregnancy.
If your back pain seems to be linked to your stress levels, things like meditation, prenatal yoga, and extra rest can all be helpful ways to manage your stress levels.
Causes Of Back Pain In Pregnancy
There are several physiologic changes that occur in a pregnant body that can explain the increased chance of developing back pain. The most notable is the weight gain that occurs during pregnancy which is typically 25-35 pounds, with at least half of that weight gain occurring in the abdominal region. The weight change also shifts the posture of the spine and changes your body’s center of gravity.
The second major change that occurs is hormonal. These hormone levels that are raised increase the laxity of joints and ligaments in the body. One of these important hormones, called relaxin, has been shown to correlate with symptoms of back pain. Studies have found that women with the highest levels of relaxin often have the most significant back pain.
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Practice Relaxation Techniques And Sleep Right
Meditation, guided imagery, or deep breathing can help you relax and may help relieve your low back pain during pregnancy.
Sleeping in the right position can be helpful too! Try to sleep on your side with your knees bent.
Many pregnant women benefit from the use of a pregnancy pillow and find they get tremendous relief of their low back pain
symptoms. There are many types of pregnancy pillows and many manufacturers.
Pregnancy pillows help low back pain primarily by offering support to the head, neck, spine, hips and lower extremities.
Initially, you will very likely experience immediate improvement in sleep comfort.
However, what is most remarkable is the improvement you will notice in your low back pain over time.
The pregnancy pillow is therapeutic because it offers consistent support and alignment of your lower back.
As with any physical therapy, it will take consistent use of the pillow to experience prolonged improvement in low back pain during pregnancy.
The following standard full-body pregnancy pillows are among the most popular for sleep comfort and relief of low back and pelvic pain.
There are many other pregnancy pillow variations available to address specific needs.
Two examples are the knee pillow which is intended to help alleviate sciatic pain and the wedge pillow, which helps support the abdomen in a comfortable anatomic position.
The smaller pillows are also far more practical for those who travel and cannot carry a full-body pregnancy pillow with them.