Back pain is fairly common during pregnancy. Most of the time, pregnancy back pain is not a symptom of something too serious. It often appears later in the pregnancy and may resolve itself after the baby is delivered. However, knowing the cause of your back pain, when to seek medical attention, and how to deal with the daily discomfort can make all the difference during your pregnancy.
Causes of Pregnancy Back Pain
Somewhere between 50-80 percent of women experience back pain at some point within their pregnancies. Your body is continually changing and growing while pregnant, which can throw off the usual way you move about in the world. Some of the more common causes of pregnancy back pain include:
- A shift in your center of gravity – As your belly grows, your center of gravity shifts more forwards. To maintain balance, you may find yourself leaning back more often, or using the muscles of the back more to compensate for the additional weight in the front of your body.
- Abdoinal muscles are stretched and weakened – As the uterus expands, many of the muscles in the abdomen become stretched and weakened. The rectus abdominus (which make up the “six pack” muscles) may even separate down the middle later on in the pregnancy. Since our core muscles help to stabilize the spine, a loss of strength in these muscles can add pressure and strain on the opposing muscles of the back.
- Pregnancy hormones loosen the ligaments and joints – During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin to help loosen the ligaments and joints in preparation for delivery. While this extra elasticity is necessary to help create space for your new baby, it may also result in back pain if the ligaments and joints that support the hips and spine become too loose.
- Additional weight gain adds strain on muscles and joints – Weight gain during pregnancy is a great sign that your baby is growing and developing. Nevertheless, that additional weight is still additional weight that your joints, muscles and spine need to support. This added strain can often lead to back pain.
- Stress can increase muscle tension in the back – While stress is not unique to pregnancy, if you are experiencing emotional stress during your pregnancy, it may translate as tension and pain in the back muscles.
When to Worry About Back Pain During Pregnancy?
While most back pain during pregnancy is not an immediate concern, there are certain circumstances that warrant a call to your primary doctor or OBGYN. These symptoms may be a sign of pregnancy complications, UTI, or even preterm labor.
Here are a few things to look out for:
- Pain associated with vaginal bleeding
- Back pain with fever
- Burning or difficulty with urination
- Pain that lasts longer than 2 weeks
- Rythmic cramping pain
- Severe pain that begins abruptly
- Nerve pain such as pins and needles in the extremities
- Back pain with numbness of the legs, butt, or genitalia
Again, while it’s totally normal to have back pain during pregnancy, it is always good to consult your PCP or OBGYN when you first notice the pain, just to be safe.
How to Relieve Back Pain During Pregnancy
Knowing that your back pain is the result of your body’s natural changes and not a more serious condition can certainly bring some mental relief, however, the physical discomfort is still worth addressing! Here are a number of ways you can help alleviate pregnancy back pain and prevent it from getting worse.
Posture: Number one way to alleviate and prevent back pain is focusing on proper posture. Slouching forward or arching back to compensate for the change in your center of gravity can add additional strain to your back. Being mindful of your posture while standing, sitting, laying and lifting can really help mitigate back pain. Try standing straight and tall with a wide stance, soft knees, and chest lifted. If you have to stand for long periods of time, try to take breaks regularly. When sitting, make sure to have a chair with proper back support or use a pillow to support the lower back. Again, think of lifting the chest and relaxing the shoulders.
When sleeping or laying down, lay on your side with the knees bent. You may even use a pregnancy pillow to support your body in a neutral and comfortable position. When lifting, avoid lifting heavy objects and squat to lift with the legs rather than bending over and using the back.
Supportive Attire: Many women have found supportive clothing and attire to be incredibly helpful in reducing back pain. Shoes should have a low, comfortable heal and solid arch support rather than being flat or having a high heel. You may also benefit from using a pregnancy support belt while carrying the extra weight of your baby in front of you.
Cold or Heat: Consult with your healthcare practitioner first, but applying cold or heat to your back may help relieve pain from strained muscles.
Stretching and Stregthening: While the muscles in your abdomen may lose strength and tone during the course of your pregnancy, engaging in some gentle stretching and strengthening exercise can help increase stability and reduce the strain put on your back. The level of physical activity you engage in will depend on your physical activity level prior to pregnancy and how your body feels throughout, but gentle exercises such as walking, swimming, and some yoga exercises may provide great relief. Check in with your doctor before engaging in physical activity.
Working with a Specialist: In addition to these other at-home methods for relief, you may want to seek additional support from a massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor if the pain continues.
Chiropractic Treatment For Pregnancy Back Pain
Pregnancy chiropractic treatment can help alleviate back, hip, neck, and joint pain throughout every stage of your pregnancy. Prenatal chiropractic care can also help mitigate symptoms of nausea and support proper alignement of the pelvis for a smoother delivery.
At O’Dell Family Chiropractic, we offer gentle treatment that takes into account changes in your body due to the growing baby, and can help alleviate your symptoms without taking any unneccessary risks. If you’re in the Rochester or Webster area, we would love to help support you through your pregnancy journey. Let us help you find relief from your pregnancy back pain. Call or book an appointment with us today at (585)671-9210 or fill out our new patient form for a special deal.