Back pain in pregnancy is very common, but should be avoided.
It is estimated that between 50% and 80% of women experience some form of back pain during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, the ligaments in your body naturally become softer and stretch to prepare you for labour. This can put a strain on the joints of your lower back and pelvis, which can cause backache.
Such pain can range from mild pain associated with specific activities to acute back pain that can become chronic back pain. Studies show that lower back pain in pregnancy usually occurs between the fifth and seventh month of being pregnant. In some cases, pregnancy pain in the lower back can begin as early as 8 to 12 weeks after becoming pregnant.
Women with pre-existing lower back problems are at higher risk for back pain, and their back pain can occur earlier in the pregnancy.
There are two common types of back pain in pregnancy:
- Lumbar, or lower back pain
- Posterior pelvic pain
Lower Back Pain During Pregnancy (Lumbar Pain)
Lumbar pain during pregnancy is generally located at and above the waist in the centre of the back. This lower back pain in pregnancy may or may not be concurrent with pain that radiates into your leg or foot.
Pain that radiates into the leg or foot is known as sciatica.
In general, lumbar pain during pregnancy is similar to lower back pain experienced by non-pregnant women. This type of pain typically increases with prolonged postures (such as sitting, standing or repetitive lifting) and tenderness may also be present in the muscles along the spine during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Pelvic Pain
This is four times more prevalent than lumbar pain in pregnancy. It is a deep pain felt below and to the side of the waistline and/ or below the waistline on either side across the tailbone. Such pregnancy pelvis pain may be experienced on one or both sides.
Posterior pelvic pain in pregnancy can extend down into the buttock and upper portion of the back of the thighs and does not usually radiate below the knees. It can be associated with pubic pain. The pain does not quickly resolve with rest and morning stiffness may also be present.
- Posterior pelvic pain during pregnancy can be brought on or exacerbated by the following activities:
- Rolling in bed
- Climbing Stairs
- Sitting and rising from a seated position (such as getting in and out of cars, bathtubs, bed).
- Lifting, twisting and bending forward.
- Running and walking
A job that involves prolonged postures at extreme ranges (such as sitting at a computer and leaning over a desk or leaning forward) increases the risk of developing pregnancy pelvic pain.
Osteopathic Treatment can help alleviate the pain and pressure on the nerves, spine and muscles during the changes that your body will go through during pregnancy.
Avoiding backache in pregnancy
There are several things you can do to help prevent backache from happening, and to help you cope with an aching back if it does occur.
The tips listed here can help you to protect your back – try to remember them every day:
- avoid lifting heavy objects
- bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting or picking up something from the floor
- move your feet when turning round to avoid twisting your spine
- wear flat shoes as these allow your weight to be evenly distributed
- work at a surface high enough to prevent you stooping
- try to balance the weight between two bags when carrying shopping
- sit with your back straight and well supported
- make sure you get enough rest, particularly later in pregnancy
A firm mattress can also help to prevent and relieve backache. If your mattress is too soft, put a piece of hardboard under it to make it firmer. Massage can also help.
Exercises to ease backache in pregnancy
The gentle exercise below helps to strengthen stomach (abdominal) muscles and this can ease backache in pregnancy:
- start in a box position (on all fours) with knees under hips, hands under shoulders, with fingers facing forwards and abdominals lifted to keep your back straight
- pull in your stomach muscles and raise your back up towards the ceiling, curling your trunk and allowing your head to relax gently forward – don’t let your elbows lock
- hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the box position
- take care not to hollow your back – it should always return to a straight, neutral position
- do this slowly and rhythmically 10 times, making your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully
- only move your back as far as you can comfortably