Pregnancy is one of the leading causes of lower back pain in women. Many women experience significant back pain while carrying a child, and often ask themselves “Is it normal?” If you are pregnant and experiencing back and abdominal pain, you are not alone! In fact, it is estimated that three out of every four women will experience back pain during their pregnancy!
Though back pain is unavoidable for most expectant mothers, identifying the specific cause of your pain can be the first step towards finding lasting relief.
Are you a mother-to-be experiencing back and spinal pain? If so, read on to learn more.
What Type of Back Pain Am I Suffering From?
There are two main types of back pain that pregnant women tend to suffer from: lumbar pain and posterior pelvic pain. There are, however, a number of back pain conditions associated with pregnancy, many of which can begin in early pregnancy.
Lumbar Pain, colloquially known as lower back pain is a type of pain experienced by non-pregnant individuals and pregnant women alike. This pain radiates around the spine and lower back at waist-height and may involve cramping muscles and aching ligaments. Many individuals have experienced this type of pain pre-pregnancy, too. If you’ve experienced lumbar pain in the past, it is more likely that this condition will flare up again during your pregnancy.
Posterior pelvic pain is the most common form of back pain experienced by pregnant women. Posterior pelvic pain occurs further down the body than lumbar pain, and is often felt deep in the lower back, buttocks, and thighs. This pain may also be felt as pressure on the pubic bone.
Posterior pelvic pain may occur on the left side or right side of the body, or, alternatively on both sides. It is often felt during everyday activities, including walking, standing up, sitting down, or while lifting objects. Bending at the waist often triggers flare-ups of posterior pelvic pain. Though this condition is often mistaken by pregnant women as sciatica, this is rarely the case; sciatica occurs in less than 1% of pregnant women.
Many pregnant women also suffer from pelvic girdle pain (PGP), which can cause pain in the lower back and pelvic region. PGP can begin as early as the first trimester. Though this condition results in only moderate pain for many women, you should consult a doctor if you’re having severe pain in your lower back and pelvis. For some women, PGP can result in severe discomfort and decreased mobility.
Though slightly less common than the aforementioned back conditions, pregnant women may also suffer from upper back pain and middle back pain. This is generally a result of muscles shifting and ligaments relaxing, a natural occurrence during pregnancy, or may also result from increased breast tissue putting strain on the shoulders and spine.
What Are The Causes of Back Pain During Pregnancy?
Though many pregnant women experience back pain, not all women suffer from the same condition. A number of physical and chemical changes affect the body during pregnancy, and back pain may be caused by multiple factors.
Some of the most common causes of back pain during pregnancy include:
- Weight gain, and the weight of your growing baby putting additional strain on your back and spine, which can also result in nerve pain in the back
- Hormonal changes, most notably the body’s production of relaxin, a hormone that loosens muscles and ligaments in preparation for giving birth. Relaxin can cause ligaments in the back and pelvis region to loosen significantly, which can place additional strain on the bones and muscles in the back.
- Separation of the rectus abdominis muscles, caused by the uterus growing, can also cause back pain. These muscles, which run from the abdomen down to the pubic bone, can separate as your uterus expands, resulting in increased back pain.
- Poor posture (sitting or standing)
- and more…
How To Relieve Pregnancy-Induced Back Pain
There are a number of preventative and curative measures that can be taken to treat and prevent back pain during your pregnancy.
- Good Posture – Consciously monitoring your posture while sitting and standing may help you to prevent further back problems during your pregnancy.
- Stretching – There are a number of stretches that specifically target back pain in pregnant women. Performing these can reduce soreness and prevent future problems.
- Walking & Exercises (Including Pre-Natal Yoga and Water Aerobics) – Though your soreness may make you want to curl up in bed, staying active is the best way to reduce your pain. Pre-natal yoga and water aerobics are two easy physical activities that can assuage your back pain.
- Hot/Cold Treatments – Applying hot/cold compresses to the problem areas of your back is one reliable way to limit back pain. Note, however, that compresses should not be applied for more than 15 minutes consecutively.
- Wearing Good Shoes – Wearing flat-footed shoes with good support will help keep your spine properly aligned, keeping back pain to a minimum.
- Massage – Whether done at home or professionally, a gentle back massage can work wonders for a pregnant woman’s back problems.
- Chiropractic Treatment – Chiropractic treatment can relax muscles and ligaments along your spinal column and can greatly reduce pregnancy pain. For pregnant women suffering from chronic back pain, this is an ideal treatment option.
- Acupuncture – Traditional Chinese acupuncture treatments are touted by some women as the best cure to pregnancy-related back problems. If you’ve been suffering for weeks with your pain, acupuncture may be a worthwhile treatment to consider.
- A Good Mattress – Pregnant and non-pregnant women alike often sleep on mattresses that provide poor lumbar support. Consider purchasing a mattress that is ideal for lower back pain sufferers, as this may reduce your back pain for years to come.
- Lumbar Support Pillows and/or Maternity Pillows – Lumbar support pillows (while sitting) and maternity pillows (while sleeping) can give your back and spine additional support, decreasing the back pain caused by pregnancy.
- Maternity Support Belt – Many women find that maternity support belts alleviate the spinal pain caused by their growing abdomens. Though not everyone finds relief with a support belt, a number of women claim that these belts have greatly reduced their back pain.
- Improved Bra – If you’ve experienced significant swelling or growth of breast tissue during your pregnancy, a new bra with improved support may help to alleviate mid and upper back pain.
- Counseling/Therapy – If you think your pain may be related to stress, depression, or emotional fatigue, counseling and therapy may help to ease your pain.
In instances of severe or sharp pain, be sure to consult your doctor or obstetrician. Though back pain during pregnancy is usually not a symptom of a serious condition, it is always better to consult a health professional than to suffer in silence with acute pain. If you think you are suffering from a serious condition such as PGP or sciatica, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Though pregnancy can be difficult, back pain should not be a constant problem in your life. Try these simple remedies and preventative measures and your symptoms will most likely decrease in time. If your back pain is severe or sudden in its onset, consult a doctor immediately. Remember to relax and take care of yourself during your pregnancy. Your journey will no doubt end in happiness.