Back pain during pregnancy is a common complaint — and it’s no wonder. You’re gaining weight, your center of gravity changes and your hormones are relaxing the ligaments in your pelvis. This means, pain can be caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, extra compression on the spine, accentuated curve of the lower back due to the weight carried in front of the bod and many others. Often, however, you can prevent or ease back pain during pregnancy.
Physical Therapy Treatment is largely successful due to the mechanical nature of pregnancy related back pain. Most commonly a simple combination of specific exercises, light stretching and supportive bracing eliminates the back pain. Occasionally, joint mobilization and more aggressive exercise may be necessary to address more severe cases of pack pain.
Here are a few ways to alleviate pain on your own. When these don’t alleviate pain, physical therapy is your next step:
PRACTICE GOOD POSTURE
As your baby grows, your center of gravity shifts forward. To avoid falling forward, you might compensate by leaning back — which can strain the muscles in your lower back and contribute to back pain during pregnancy. Keep these principles of good posture in mind:
- Sit supported with your shoulder resting back onto the chair or seat back
- Stand with one foot elevated—find anything that is at a comfortable height to put your foot on—switch feet often.
- Use a brace if needed. Remember, this is temporary, use whatever necessary to get through it comfortably
- Keep your buns and abs conditioned with mild exercise
GET THE RIGHT GEAR
Wear low-heeled — not flat — shoes with good arch support.
You might also consider wearing a maternity support belt. Although research on the effectiveness of maternity support belts is limited, some women find the additional support helpful.
When lifting a small object, squat down and lift with your legs. Don’t bend at the waist or lift with your back. It’s also important to know your limits. Ask for help if you need it.
SLEEP ON YOUR SIDE
Sleep on your side, not your back. Keep one or both knees bent. Consider using pregnancy or support pillows between your bent knees, under your abdomen and behind your back.
TRY COLD OR MASSAGE
Lie down on an ice pack on your back for a short period. As you get into the 3rd trimester, use an ace wrap or a large towel to hold the ice pack up against you back as you sit with your feet up on a stool.
A pregnancy specific massage may also be helpful.
INCLUDE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
Regular physical activity can keep your back strong and might actually relieve back pain during pregnancy. With your health care provider’s OK, try gentle activities — such as walking or water exercise.
You might also stretch your lower back. Rest on your hands and knees with your head in line with your back. Pull in your stomach, rounding your back slightly. Hold for several seconds, and then relax your stomach and back — keeping your back as flat as possible. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions. Ask your health care provider about other stretching exercises, too.
CONSIDER COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES
Research has shown physical therapy can alleviate most pregnancy related back pain through varying modalities. Usually with a combination of modalities, exercise, supportive braces and education on best positions, physical therapy is one of the best conservative options you have.
Both Acupuncture and Chiropractic may also help relieve back pain during pregnancy. If you’re considering a complementary therapy, discuss the options with your health care provider.
KNOW WHEN TO CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
If you have severe back pain during pregnancy or back pain that lasts more than two weeks, talk to your health care provider. He or she might recommend medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or other treatments.
Keep in mind that back pain during pregnancy might be a sign of preterm labor. Also, back pain during pregnancy that’s accompanied by vaginal bleeding, fever or burning during urination could be a sign of an underlying problem that needs prompt attention. If you’re concerned about your back pain, contact your health care provider right away.