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Pregnancy and Back Pain

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Whether you are newly pregnant or very pregnant; approximately ½ of all women experience back pain during pregnancy. Back pain can range from mild acute pain associated with specific and certain activities or it may be pain that becomes chronic.

However about 10% of the time back pain can be severe enough that it interferes with work and daily activities. Back pain during pregnancy can start as early as 8 to 12 weeks. Previous episodes of lower back pain may put a woman at higher risk, but there are women who experience back pain only when pregnant. There are two common types of pregnancy-related back pain; Lumbar or low back pain and posterior pelvic pain.

Lumbar low back pain tends to be located at or above the waist and may be in the center or to one side of the back. Pain can radiate down the leg and or foot. Sitting or standing for long periods and lifting may aggravate the pain and pain may be more intense at the end of the day. This type of pain is similar to low back pain in non-pregnant women.

Posterior pelvic pain may be felt deep inside the buttocks, on one or both sides and may even be felt into the back of the thighs. Posterior pelvic pain may be triggered by activities such as walking, climbing stairs, getting in and out of a tub or a low chair, rolling over in bed, or twisting and lifting.

Hormones can be responsible for back pain during pregnancy. The hormone ‘relaxin’ is released allowing for ligaments in the pelvic area to relax and for joints to become looser in preparation for the birthing process. The loosening of ligaments that support your spine, pelvis and joints can lead to instability and pain if muscles are not strong enough or are weak in supporting the changes occurring with pregnancy.

Another cause of lower back pain during pregnancy may also be due to the stretch of the muscle “rectus abdominis” , your abdominal muscle, which runs from your rib cage to the pubic bone. This muscle stretches with the growth of the belly to accommodate the baby. While pregnancy weight gain is inevitable and normal, the extra weight changes the center of gravity and leads to postural changes that place stressors on the back. As well, be aware of emotional stress, as this can create tension and stress that can be felt in the back muscles.

What can I do?

If you are experiencing low back or posterior pelvic pain while pregnant, you can help ease discomfort by making sure you are using proper body mechanics during your activities of daily living. When sleeping you can place a pillow between your knees to help take the stress off your back. When sitting try placing a rolled towel behind your back for support and rest your feet under a stool. Remember to sit up straight with your shoulders pulled back.

In addition to making these minor changes it’s important to stay active. Even though you may want to just sit and lay in bed and rest your back, it’s actually better to get up and move. Exercise helps to strengthen your muscles and boost your flexibility. (*Always check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program while pregnant*)

  • Strength exercises can help build muscles to support your back and legs including your abdominal muscles
  • Stretching is another important aspect in the care of your back while pregnant to ensure your flexibility. But be careful not to overstretch and strain your joints
  • Swimming is a great choice as the water buoyancy helps take the strain off your joints and ligaments
  • Walking is low impact and can be fit into your daily routine
  • There are also other more specific exercises for low back and posterior pelvic pain issue which can be given to you by a physiotherapist, chiropractor or certified kinesiologist
  • A maternity belt can help support your back

If you are experiencing lower back or posterior pelvic pain while pregnant a visit to your Chiropractor can help. Many women achieve great results from chiropractic care while pregnant and have:

  • Maintained a healthier pregnancy
  • Controlled symptoms of nausea
  • Reduced the time of labour and delivery
  • Relieved back, neck or joint pain
  • Prevented a potential cesarean delivery

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/ – Pregnancy and chiropractic: a narrative review of the literature
http://www.canadianchiropractor.ca/content/view/1379/