Back pain is very common in pregnancy with approximately 50 to 75% of pregnant women experiencing it at some stage. It can occur during any stage of your pregnancy, including the first, second or third trimester.
There are several reasons why pregnant women experience back pain.
During pregnancy your body makes a hormone called relaxin. This hormone is necessary during pregnancy as it allows the joints and ligaments in your pelvic area to relax and loosen to accommodate your baby and to prepare your body for the process of birth. Unfortunately relaxin also affects other ligaments and joints in your body including those supporting your spine which can cause instability and pain.
As your baby grows it will shift your centre of gravity and you will adjust your posture and the way you move your body to accommodate for this. These changes may also result in back pain.
During a healthy pregnancy women typically gain between 11kg and 15kg. Your spine has to support this extra weight and this can cause lower back pain.
Abdominal muscle separation
As your uterus expands, your two vertical sheets of abdominal muscles (rectal abdominis) which run from your pubic bone up to your ribcage may separate. The separation of these core abdominal muscles means your back muscles must work harder to carry the weight of your growing baby. This in turn may cause or exacerbate your back pain.
Exercise strengthens muscles, improves flexibility and, if performed appropriately, will often markedly improve back pain. There are many safe exercises for pregnant women, such as yoga, pilates, swimming, aqua-aerobics, stationary bike riding, and walking which will keep you in healthy and strong during your pregnancy. There are also many pregnancy specific classes through out Brisbane which can help you find safe ways to exercise during your pregnancy.
Just as when you’re not pregnant correct posture is very important at preventing back pain and strain. Try to be mindful of your posture when working, sitting or sleeping. When sitting you can roll up a towel to place behind your lower back to provide support and prevent you from slouching. You can also place a book or stool under you feet if raising your knees is required to take stress off your lower back. Also remember to sit up straight with your shoulders back to prevent upper back and neck aches. When sleeping you can put a pillow between your knees to take pressure and stress off your back.
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine and involves the insertion of fine sterile needles into your skin at certain locations. Research evidence supports acupuncture as an effective treatment to many types of pain, including back pain (1). The treatment will often involve the use of cupping therapy to loosen the muscles prior to the use of needles. We may also use heat therapy in the form of moxibustion or heat lamps to further relax your muscles and reduce pain. Click here for more information about our acupuncture services.
Other physical therapies
There are several other physical therapies which can help you to resolve your back pain including massage, chiropractors, physiotherapy, osteopathy, yoga, or pilates.
Many women find wearing a support belt during their pregnancy provides some relief from back pain. These belts can be purchased from pharmacies or over the internet from sites like Queen Bee. The belts are worn over and under your belly and wrap around your lower back. They are designed to lift your belly which reduces the amount of strain on your lower and middle back. It might also help to remind you to maintain a good posture which again will help prevent and manage your back pain.
Heat packs, warm baths or showers can help to relax sore muscle and relieve back pain.
Magnesium relaxes muscles and can relieve back pain. It can be taken in a supplement form or through increasing your intake of magnesium rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, quinoa, brown rice, spinach, tofu, peanut butter, yoghurt, or baked beans.
- Liddle SD, Pennick V. Interventions for preventing and treating low‐back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD001139. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001139.pub4.