Back Pain During Pregnancy

Managing Back Pain During Your Pregnancy

Along with morning sickness, food cravings and weight gain, back pain can be a common complaint during pregnancy. There are a few things you can do, however, to prevent pregnancy-related back pain or manage your discomfort once it starts.

Back pain is a common complaint in the months leading up to delivery, especially during the final trimester, but there are a few things you can do to manage your back pain so that you can keep the focus on what's most important — getting ready to welcome your new baby!

Why Does My Back Hurt?

There are many reasons why women can develop back pain during pregnancy. Some of these reasons relate to the direct effect of hormonal changes in muscles, ligaments and joints, changes in weight, spinal alignment, and activity levels.

Hormones released during pregnancy cause the bodies joints and ligaments to become softer and elastic, in preparation for the birthing process. These changes can affect your backs natural support mechanisms, particularly as the weight of your baby increases.

A growing baby also causes your center of gravity to shift. Abdominal muscles stretch and weaken, further compromising posture and spinal alignment. Typically, changes to posture and spinal alignment result in forward flexion of the hips associated with forward rotation of the pelvis and sacrum. This produces a 'swayback' effect in the lumbar spine and a painful back. If pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve or on a spinal disc, pain may radiate through the hips, buttocks and legs.

How Can I Prevent Back Pain During My Pregnancy?

To help reduce the risk of back pain during pregnancy you can try to implement the following preventive measures:

  • Maintain a reasonable activity level and — under your physiotherapist’s supervision — incorporate exercises that gently stretch and strengthen your back and abdominal muscles.
  • If you spend your days behind a desk, take advantage of opportunities to get up and stretch your legs — and back.
  • Maintain good posture. As your center of gravity shifts forward, minimize the strain on your lower back by standing as straight as possible, keeping your shoulders back and your buttocks tucked under. When sitting, keep your feet slightly elevated (if possible). Choose a chair that supports your back — use a small pillow if necessary — and change positions frequently.
  • Be mindful of body mechanics. If you need to pick something up, don't bend over and lift using your back. Instead, squat using your knees, keeping your back straight as you lift. Avoid positions that require bending or twisting. Listen to your body — if something hurts, don't do it!
  • If you're keen on high-heeled shoes, quit them — at least for a few months. Cute "sensible shoes" do exist — just look for low heels and good arch support. Your clothing can also be back-friendly — look for maternity pants with a low, supportive waistband.
  • Later in your pregnancy, you may want to use a pregnancy support belt under your lower abdomen.
  • Try to sleep sufficient hours. Practice relaxation techniques, and keep stress to a minimum. Sleep on your side rather than your back, keeping your knees bent. Place pillows around your abdomen for support, if needed.

Easing Back Pain Once It Starts

If you are experiencing pregnancy-related back pain, consult with your doctor and discuss the option of physiotherapy or massage therapy to alleviate your discomfort. You can also see a physiotherapist without a referral. All the physiotherapists and massage therapists at City Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre are highly skilled and experienced in treating Pregnancy-related back pain. Commonly prescribed therapies for easing pregnancy-related back pain can include:

  • Hot or cold therapy, in the form of a warm bath, a hot wheat bag, or an ice pack.
  • Physiotherapy specifically designed to address the needs of your changing body as your pregnancy progresses. Specific pelvic-floor and low back exercises can be prescribed. These may reduce your pains and the improved strength can also help you during delivery.
  • Analgesic medications, as recommended by your doctor.
  • Massage therapy can provide significant relief for pregnancy-related discomfort. Massage can also help with stress, tension, anxiety related to pregnancy. It is also a great escape for the expecting mum.

Call Your Doctor Immediately If...

  • You're experiencing dull, “cramping” low back pain, as this could be a sign of preterm labor.
  • Your back pain is severe, starts suddenly, or is accompanied by fever.
  • You experience back pain as well as vaginal spotting or bleeding.
  • You develop numbness or weakness in your legs, buttocks, groin, or genital area.

How City Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre can help you...

Not all health care providers are aware of treatment options during pregnancy. At City Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre our staff are experienced and specifically trained to deal safely and effectively with pregnancy-related back pain. You have the option of seeing the massage therapist who is highly skilled and experienced in treating musculoskeletal pain in pregnancy or you can first be assessed by one of our experienced and highly skilled physiotherapists. The physiotherapist can then determine the best approach to treat your condition. Often, treatment will also include massage therapy. In addition, there are special exercises, posture advice, stretches and other techniques which your physiotherapist may elect to include in your treatment plan.

To make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists or massage therapist call us now on (02) 9223-1575.

Compiled also using information from the following sources:

Back pain during pregnancy resource page: American Pregnancy Association. www.americanpregnancy.org

Back pain during pregnancy resource page: American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. www.aapmr.org