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Back Pain During Pregnancy

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Causes and How to Alleviate Pregnancy Back Pain


The majority of women who are pregnant experience back pain at some point during their pregnancy.  Fortunately, there are many ways to relieve the aches and pains associated with pregnancy and to keep the back pain from continuing after the baby is born. Women with a pre-existing back condition from before the onset of their pregnancy are better able to adjust to the discomfort that comes with the developing pregnancy.  It is important to seek medical advice about treatment for your back pain so that there are no complications during labor.

Causes of Pregnancy Back Pain

There are two categories of pregnancy-related back pain:

  • When you combine the weight of your body and the baby, it tends to cause your muscles to fatigue and ligaments to stretch, especially at the end of the day and when you have been on your feet all day. Strained ligaments, muscles, joints, and discs can even occur before pregnancy due to injury, weak or stiff muscles, improper lifting technique, or bad posture.  A small number of pregnant women may have symptoms of sciatica during their pregnancy, which is pain caused by an inflammation or pressure that affects the sciatic nerve.  Symptoms of sciatica include weakness, tingling, backaches, and pain moving down one of your legs.  Many people believe that it is the baby’s weight that causes the pressure on the nerve, but sciatica actually occurs in people who are not pregnant as well.
  • Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) – PGPis caused by the pregnancy, so it might not be treated in the same manner as regular back pain. PGP is the main cause of back pain among pregnant women.

Please note that symptoms of pain in the area around the pubic bone may be an indicator of Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD).  If you experience this, you should speak with a physiotherapist who is an expert in women’s health to be sure that you are properly diagnosed with regards to this condition.

Preventing Back Pain

  • One way to prevent lower back pain is to make sure your body is healthy and fit before and during the pregnancy.
  • If you are already pregnant, you are still able to get fit and decrease your risk of experiencing lower and/or upper back pain during pregnancy by following an exercise program created specifically for women who are pregnant (refer to antenatal fitness portion). Women who are not used to exercising should proceed carefully.
  • By engaging in a moderate exercise program, avoiding lifting any heavy objects, using proper posture, and caring for your back, you can prevent back pain at the early pregnancy and later. If you must lift an object, be sure to use the proper form by bending your knees, keeping your back straight, and holding the object as close as you can to your body.

Ways to Alleviate Pregnancy Back Pain:

  • Taking care of your back (refer to “Protecting Your Back and Pelvis during Pregnancy”).
  • Keeping a good posture is especially helpful when the pain is focused on your tailbone (coccyx). You should keep your back arched as often as possible and avoid slouching.  Cushions or a cushioned ring are a good way to be more comfortable as you sit.
  • Taking warm baths, using hot packs, and taking warm showers can offer relief from back pain.
  • Using support belts or maternity belts can help bear the baby’s weight, which eases the strain on your back and stomach muscles.
  • Placing a wedge-shaped support pillow under your stomach while lying on one side as you sleep.
  • Taking aqua-natal classes has been shown to cause a significant reduction in pregnancy-relatedback pain.
  • Getting a massage can be especially helpful for muscles that are tired and achy, especially lower back massages. One method is to have someone massage the muscles on either side of the lower spine while you lean over an object like the back of a chair or lie on one side.  Visiting a midwife, massage therapist, or physiotherapist for your massage may help relieve your back pain as well.
  • Doing pelvic and low abdominal exercises can help build up your stomach and back muscles to be able to bear the baby’s weight. One easy and safe abdominal exercise is to get on your hands and knees, while making certain your back is level, and pulling your belly button in towards your spine for 5 – 10 seconds as you breathe in and out and keep you back stiff.   Let your stomach muscles relax following each contraction.

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