Backache or back discomfort is quite common during pregnancy, particularly in the early stages. Pregnancy naturally softens and stretches the ligaments in your body, preparing you for labour. This may place a pressure on your lower back and pelvic joints, resulting in back pain. Here’s what you can do.
Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 9th Dec 2021.
How To Relieve Back Pain In Pregnancy
The good news is that your child is developing. Even while this is precisely what should be occurring, it may still be difficult on your back.
You’re not alone: most pregnant women suffer back pain, which often begins in the second part of the pregnancy.
You should be aware that there are steps you may take to lessen your back pain. Here’s what you can do to assist.
Causes of Back Pain in Pregnant Women
Back pain in pregnancy usually occurs where the pelvis joins the spine, at the sacroiliac joint.
There are many reasons why this occurs. Some of the possible causes are as follows:
- Weight gain. Women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during a healthy pregnancy. The spine must support that weight. This may result in lower back discomfort. Blood vessels and nerves in the pelvis and back are also pressed by the developing baby’s weight and uterus.
- Posture changes. Your centre of gravity changes throughout pregnancy. Consequently, you may find yourself gradually adjusting your posture and movement patterns, even without realising it. Back discomfort or strain may occur as a consequence of this.
- Hormone changes. Relaxin is a hormone produced by the body during pregnancy that enables ligaments in the pelvic region to relax and joints to loosen in preparation for the delivery process. The same hormone may weaken ligaments that support the spine, resulting in discomfort and instability.
- Muscle separation. Two parallel sheets of muscles (the rectus abdominis muscles) that run from the rib cage to the pubic bone may split at the central seam as the uterus grows. Back discomfort may get worse as a result of this separation.
- Stress. Back muscular tension caused by emotional stress may manifest as back pain or back spasms. During stressful times of your pregnancy, you may notice an increase in back discomfort.
Treatments for Back Pain in Pregnancy
More good news: Unless you had severe backaches before becoming pregnant, your pain should subside gradually before giving delivery.
Meanwhile, there are many things you may do to alleviate or prevent low back pain:
- Exercise. Muscles are strengthened, and flexibility is increased with regular exercise. This may help to relieve tension in your spine. Walking, swimming and stationary cycling are all safe activities for most pregnant women. Exercises to strengthen your back and abdomen may be recommended by your doctor or physical therapist.
- Heat and cold. It may be beneficial to apply heat and cold to your back. Start by applying cold compresses (such as a bag of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel) to the sore region for up to 20 minutes many times a day if your doctor approves. Switch to heat after two or three days by placing a heating pad or a hot water bottle on the sore region. Avoid applying heat to your abdomen while you’re pregnant.
- Improve your posture. Your spine is strained when you recline. As a result, maintaining correct posture when working, sitting, or sleeping is a wise decision. Sleeping on your side with a cushion between your knees, for example, relieves back strain. Place a rolled-up towel behind your back for support, put your feet on a stack of books or a stool, and sit up straight with your shoulders back while seated at a desk. Pull your hips forward and your shoulders back while standing. To compensate for your expanding stomach, you may lean back. A support belt may also be beneficial.
- Stretch regularly. Look up “backward stretch," “low backstretch," and “standing pelvic tilt" on the internet. These exercises will help to strengthen your back and pelvic muscles.
- Counselling. If your back discomfort is caused by stress, speaking with a trusted friend or counsellor may benefit you.
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a type of traditional chinese therapy that involves the insertion of tiny needles into your skin at specific points. Acupuncture is helpful in the treatment of low back pain in pregnant women in studies. If you’re interested in trying it, talk to your doctor first.
- Chiropractic. Chiropractic manipulation of the spine may be safe during pregnancy if appropriately done. Always check with your doctor before going to the chiropractor.
- Instead of bending down to pick something up from the ground, squat with your legs.
- Wearing high-heeled shoes is not a good idea. Low-heeled shoes with excellent arch support are ideal. Remember that hormones may cause joints to relax, so you may need to purchase a bigger shoe size.
- Sleeping on your back is not a good idea.
- Support hose should be worn.
If your back discomfort continues, you should speak with your doctor about other options. Before using any pain relievers, talk to your doctor. Most women may safely use acetaminophen (Tylenol) throughout pregnancy. Aspirin and other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) are not recommended. Your doctor may recommend other pain relievers or muscle relaxants that are safe during pregnancy in certain circumstances.
When to Seek Treatment From a Doctor
Back discomfort isn’t typically a cause to see a doctor on its own. However, if you have any of the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately away:
- Severe pain
- Pain that is becoming more intense or that starts suddenly.
- Cramping aches that occur in a predictable pattern
- Have trouble urinating or feeling “pins and needles" in your extremities
Severe back pain may sometimes be linked to pregnancy-related osteoporosis, vertebral osteoarthritis, or septic arthritis. Rhythmic pains may indicate preterm labour. So, if you’re having any of these issues, you should see your doctor immediately.
- American Pregnancy Association: “Back Pain."
- New York University Langone Medical Center: “Managing Pregnancy-Related Back Pain."
- West Penn Allegheny Health System: “Back Problems in Pregnancy."
- University of Michigan Health System: “Low Back Pain During Pregnancy."
- University of Cincinnati NetWellness: “Pregnancy."
- Tufts University School of Medicine: “Acupuncture Appears to Benefit Pregnant Women with Low Back Pain."
- National Center for Education Statistics: “Chiropractic."
- University of Michigan Health System: “Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)."
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth, Month to Month, 5th edition. 2010.