Reports show that between 50 and 70 percent of women experience some sort of back pain or discomfort during their pregnancy. Although back pain may be experienced during any point of your pregnancy it is more common in the second half as the baby grows.
Although there are several factors that contribute to back pain during pregnancy, those most at risk are women who were already overweight or who had had back pain prior to becoming pregnant.
As well as low back pain you may also experience discomfort in your upper back, shoulders and ribcage. You may also suffer from sciatica, a shooting pain down one or both legs, normally caused by compression of the sciatic nerve as a result of postural changes during pregnancy. Some women also have pain in the pubic joint at the front of the pelvis, caused by instability of the joint.
Pregnancy can be a time of great happiness. However, it can also be exhausting and uncomfortable as your body struggles to adapt to the huge changes occurring. Back pain can stop you getting a good night’s sleep, disrupt your daily routine and, in some cases, make your pregnancy very difficult to cope with. The good news is there are steps you can take to manage the back pain that you experience.
What Causes Back Pain During Pregnancy?
Although some women begin to have lower back pain at the onset of pregnancy it is more commonly experienced towards the latter stages. Contributing factors to back pain during pregnancy are:
- Hormonal changes that loosen up the joints and soften the ligaments in the pelvic area in readiness for the birth may affect the support normally given to your back.
- As your uterus and baby grow your centre of gravity shifts leading to postural changes. Poor posture, excessive standing, and bending over can trigger or escalate the pain you experience in your back.
- Your back will need to support additional weight as your pregnancy develops and your baby grows.
- Stress usually accumulates in weak areas in the body. Because of the changes in your pelvic area, you may experience an increase in back pain during stressful periods of your pregnancy
How Can You Prevent Back Pain During Pregnancy?
Although it may not be possible to avoid back pain completely, there are certainly some steps you can take to reduce the frequency and severity of back pain during pregnancy.
- Avoid heels, wear comfortable shoes with cushioned soles and good arch support. Avoid slouching, support your low back with cushions when sitting. Don’t cross your legs.
- When lying on your side, put a pillow between your knees to keep your pelvis balanced. A small foam wedge under your bump may also help.
- Keep active, try classes geared towards pregnant women (Yoga, aqua-natal) and walk when you can.
- Wear a comfortable supportive bra with wide straps. Make sure any backpack is well adjusted. Roll your shoulders in gentle backwards circles several time a day.
- If you have a toddler, encourage them to climb up onto your lap or into their car seat, to save bending. Try to alternate the side you carry them on.
How to Treat Back Pain During Pregnancy
Although low back pain is common in pregnancy, it can be treated effectively with proper care.
Osteopathy can help relieve and even prevent symptoms such as back pain, sciatica and pelvic pain helping you to enjoy a relaxing and pain-free pregnancy.
Author: Liz Pegg, Osteopath at Sussex Back Pain Clinic
Since graduating as an osteopath in 1991, I’ve worked with people of all ages, helping them to achieve their potential and do the things they love most. I often see several generations of a family, and love the sense of continuity and perspective that comes with this.
I particularly enjoy treating pregnant women. Pregnancy is a normal part of life, an exciting time involving physical and emotional change.
It’s a time of transition, when women are often juggling family and work issues, leaving little time for themselves.
As an osteopath, I can provide safe, effective treatment throughout pregnancy to help relieve structural imbalances, and improve function. Many pregnancy-related aches and pains can be relieved with osteopathic treatment. Techniques are gentle, and adapted to your stage of pregnancy.
I can also help ensure you are in the best shape for your labour, and advise on posture and appropriate exercise. After the birth, I offer check-ups for Mum and baby, to ensure any issues are dealt with quickly.
If you are pregnant, and considering treatment, do get in touch and I will be happy to answer any questions.