Pregnancy Back Pain
Article by Zoe Russell
How to Manage Pregnancy Back Pain
The good news is, your baby is growing. That's exactly what should be happening - but it can still be tough on your back. You've got lots of company - many pregnant women experience back pain, usually starting in the second half of pregnancy.
You should know that there are things you can do to minimise your back pain.
Causes of Back Pain in Pregnant Women
Pregnancy back pain typically happens where the pelvis meets your spine, at the sacroiliac joint or SIJ, in the joints of the lumbar spine or at the joint between the two halves of the pelvic rim known as the pubic symphysis.
There are many possible reasons why it happens. Here are some of the more likely causes:
During pregnancy, your body makes a hormone called relaxin that allows ligaments in the pelvic area to relax and thus the joints to become looser in preparation for the birth process. The same hormone can cause ligaments that support the spine to loosen, leading to instability and pain, particularly if prior to pregnancy you had some weakness of the muscles supporting this region.
As the uterus expands, two parallel sheets of muscles (the rectus abdominis muscles or Six pack muscles), which run from the rib cage to the pubic bone, may separate along the center seam. This separation may worsen back pain.
During a healthy pregnancy, women typically gain weight. The spine has to support that weight. That can cause lower back pain. The weight of the growing and uterus also puts pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the pelvis and back.
Pregnancy shifts your centre of gravity. As a result, you may gradually - even without noticing - adjust your posture and the way you move. This may result in back pain or strain.
Emotional stress can cause muscle tension in the back, which may be felt as back pain or back spasms. You may find that you experience an increase in back pain during stressful periods of your pregnancy.
Treatments for Back Pain in Pregnancy
There is good news! Unless you had chronic backaches before you got pregnant, your pain will likely ease gradually before you give birth.
Meanwhile, there are many things you can do to treat low back pain or make it rarer and milder:
Improve Your Posture
Slouching strains your spine. So using proper posture when working, sitting, or sleeping is a good move. For example, sleeping on your side with a pillow between the knees will take stress off your back. When sitting at a desk, place a rolled-up towel behind your back for support; rest your feet on a stack of books or stool and sit up straight, with your shoulders back.
Wearing a support belt may also help. Your physiotherapist is the best person to advise you if this is likely to be beneficial for you.
Your physiotherapist is an expert when it comes to assessing and managing your pregnancy-related back pain. After a thorough assessment, there is a lot that physiotherapists can do to help you with your pregnancy-related back pain. In most cases, they can help you with improving your joint position and control.
Your physiotherapist will devise a specialised program tailored to your needs and the stage of your pregnancy.
Physiotherapy treatment may include any of the following, depending on your specific needs:
Regular general exercise strengthens muscles and boosts flexibility - which may ease the stress on your spine.
Safe exercises for most pregnant women include:
It is best to discuss your pre-pregnancy and current exercise regime with your physiotherapist, who can recommend the best exercises for your needs to strengthen your back and abdomen.
Some women benefit from a supportive back brace that is specially designed for pregnant women. Ask your physiotherapist if one would be suitable for you.
More details are available here: Maternity Belt
Heat and Cold
Applying heat and cold to your back may help. Be careful not to apply heat to your abdomen during pregnancy.
If you need more advice, please consult your obstetrician, doctor or physiotherapist.
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