Back pain is one of the most common discomforts during pregnancy, affecting over two-thirds of expectant mothers. Weight gain, hormonal changes, and posture shifts as the belly grows all contribute to increased strain on the back. This pain can range from mild stiffness to severe debilitating spasms.
The good news is there are many steps pregnant women can take to prevent and treat back pain during pregnancy. This article will cover tips for maintaining a healthy back throughout the journey to motherhood.
Understanding Back Pain in Pregnancy
Several factors cause back pain during pregnancy:
- Extra weight in the abdominal region shifts the center of gravity forward. To compensate, pregnant women arch their lower back which stresses the lumbar spine.
- The hormone relaxin loosens joints and ligaments in preparation for delivery. This includes structures in the lower back.
- Postural changes such as swayback and forward neck strain the back muscles.
- Improper body mechanics when lifting, bending, standing, or sleeping further taxes the spine.
- Existing lower back problems or injuries are exacerbated. Sciatica incidence also increases.
- During labor, intense contractions and pushing put enormous pressure on the lower back. An epidural can limit movement further aggravating pain.
- After delivery, nursing newborns and recovering from labor require maintaining flexed back postures.
The pain mainly occurs in the lumbar region but can radiate to the legs. While often manageable with self-care, severe back pain should be evaluated by an obstetrician.
Exercises to Prevent and Treat Back Pain
Specific exercises throughout pregnancy can relieve muscle tension, strengthen the back and core, improve flexibility, and encourage proper alignment. This helps stabilize the body against painful spasms or sprains.
Here are some of the best exercises for pregnancy back pain:
- Pelvic Tilts - Tighten abdominal muscles and tilt the pelvis to gently arch lower back. Hold briefly then relax. Repeat 10 times.
- Knee to Chest - Hug one knee into your chest until you feel a stretch. Switch legs and repeat. Do 10 reps per leg.
- Lower Back Rotations - Rotate your hips and lower back in slow, controlled circles while on your hands and knees. Do 5 rotations each way.
- Cat-Cows - Shift between arching your back up and rounding your back down rhythmically. Complete 8-10 cycles.
- Clamshells - Lay on your side and lift your top knee while keeping feet together. Do 15 per side.
- Planks - Hold the pushup plank position, maintaining a straight line from head to heels. Work up to 60 seconds.
- Prenatal Yoga - Gentle yoga poses like child's pose open up the back. Enroll in a pregnancy yoga class.
Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen while pregnant. Stay hydrated and listen to your body during workouts.
Everyday Habits to Reduce Back Strain
Along with specific exercises, adopting healthier daily habits can take pressure off the back during pregnancy:
- Maintain good posture - Stand tall with shoulders back and avoid hunching over.
- Wear supportive footwear - Well-cushioned shoes with low heels are best.
- Avoid heavy lifting - Get help carrying older children and heavy bags/objects.
- Sit with proper ergonomics - Select chairs with good lumbar support.
- Sleep on your side - Place a pillow between your legs for alignment.
- Stretch frequently - Take short breaks to extend your lower back.
- Watch your steps - Wear flat shoes and be cautious of slick floors. Falls can cause serious back injury.
Let your obstetrician know if pain persists for over a week or severely limits your mobility. Severe back pain may signify issues like spinal nerve impingement that require prompt treatment.
Soothing Techniques for Back Discomfort
For inevitable soreness during pregnancy, try these home remedies:
- Cold or heat therapy - Ice packs or heating pads can relieve muscular back spasms. Avoid direct skin contact.
- Massage - Have a prenatal massage therapist focus on trigger points in your lower back muscles.
- Warm bath - Soak in an Epsom salt bath to calm inflammation and relax muscles.
- Acupuncture - Consult an acupuncturist certified in pregnancy techniques for pain relief.
- Topical analgesics - Use over-the-counter creams containing menthol or camphor on the back. Check with your doctor first.
- Comfortable furniture - Recliners, stability balls, and supportive cushions take pressure off.
- Relaxation exercises - Try prenatal yoga, meditation, or visualization to reduce muscle tension.
Your provider may recommend using acetaminophen sparingly for severe back pain. Avoid NSAIDs during pregnancy if possible. Seek urgent care for any numbness/tingling, bowel/bladder changes, or fever as these may indicate a serious problem. Most cases of pregnancy-related back pain resolve or improve after delivery. Patience, body awareness, and proactive strengthening will get you through the discomfort until you can hold your baby.