Back Pain during Pregnancy: Why does it happen and How to deal with it?

Back Pain is the most common problem faced by women during their pregnancy. Though the back pain is more common by the third trimester but it can occur at any point of time during the pregnancy. This pain not only hampers the daily activities but also hinders the sleep.

Back pain is primarily due to the growth in the size of baby and the uterus which not only causes a deviation from the normal posture of the mothers’ body but is also responsible for the weakening of the abdominal muscles which in turn pressurizes the lower back. The secondary cause to the pain is the change in the hormone levels which loosens the joints around the region adjoining the pelvic and spinal region there by causing a sense of instability in the mother.

Types of Back Pain during Pregnancy

Back Pain due to pregnancy can be categorized as:

  • Posterior Pelvic Pain: It is more common in pregnant woman who have to stay in one posture for a prolonged period. The pain radiates form the tail bone and spreads under the entire waistline. The pain can limit itself to one side of the pelvis or it can strain both sides depending on the severity. In severe cases, the pain can outspread to thigh and hip region up to the knees. Patients usually feel stiffness around the region which is not easy to treat. Prime reasons that can aggravate the pain are:

– Rolling in the bed when lying down
– Climbing up and down the stairs
– Remain seated in one position for a long time
– Sudden rising up from the seated posture
– Lifting heavy objects
– Twisting around and bending forward
– Brisk walking and running.

  • Lower Back Pain: It is also known as the “Lumbar Pain”. This pain is usually localized in the center of the back region lying just above the waist. The pain usually arises due to soreness in muscles which are present around the spine area. Prolonged postures like sitting, standing or frequent lifting of heavy objects are known to worsen the pain.

Sometimes, the lumbar pain can also co-exist with a radiating pain in the leg or foot region, this condition is known as Sciatica. In this condition, the pain originates from the lower back down to the foot through the hip region causing a sense of pain along with tingling and numbness.

What are the reasons for Back Pain during Pregnancy?

There are multiple reasons behind the pregnancy back pain, some of which are mentioned below:

  • Increase in Weight: For a healthy pregnancy, a woman is expected to gain weight around 25 to 35 pounds; this increase in weight has to be supported by the spine. If it is not supported, it starts causing the lower back pain in the mother. Apart from this the weight of the developing baby encapsulated in the expanding uterus also exerts a lot of pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the pelvic region and the lower back area. This also adds to the back pain.
  • Change in Posture:Pregnancy causes a change in the balance point of the mother’s body which gradually makes way to a posture that is a precursor to pressure on the back thereby causing back pain. The body unknowingly gives in to the change in posture.
  • Hormonal fluctuations:During pregnancy, the body causes the ligaments in the pelvic region to relax so as to allow the joints to become loose which aids in easing the birth process. This loosening in the joints is caused due to release of a hormone called Relaxin which is also responsible for loosening the ligaments that support the spine leading to instability in the body and pain in the back.
  • Muscle separation:The abdominal muscles that starts from the rib cage to the pubic bone, comprises of two sheets that might get separated along the center joint due to expansion in the size of uterus thus increasing the severity in back pain.
  • Stress: Stress is the root cause of many problems, so is it in case of back pain during pregnancy. Stress can cause the muscles in the back area to get tensed, which may cause in back pain or back spasms. It is common for expecting mothers to face an increase in back pain during stressful phases of pregnancy.

Different Ways to get relief from the Back Pain during Pregnancy

There are various methods that can be used for dealing with the lower back pain. Even if the pain does not get eliminated, these ways would certainly help in reducing the pain.

  • Exercise: Regular exercising not only supports muscles but also improves flexibility which in turn eases the pain and strain affecting the spine. There are numerous exercises that are safe. Most of the pregnant women can do walking,swimming, fixed cycling and best of all is prenatal yoga. Prenatal yoga has best effects of both exercising and stress buster. It is best to seek a medical advice before getting into any kind of exercising regime and also doing it under an experts’ guidance ensuring the safety of both mother and the child.
  • Heat and Cold: Effect of application of both heat and cold help in soothing the back pain. Application of ice packs on the affected area for up to 20 minutes multiple times a day. Thereafter a span of two to three days, a shift to heating pad or hot water bag in moderation and for shorter duration on the painful area would help in reducing the pain. The expecting mothers must ensure that they should refrain from application of heat to abdominal region during pregnancy. Do consult with your doctor before using a heating pad or a hot bag.
  • Improving the Posture: A drooping posture strains the spine and causes back pain, therefore a proper posture is a must when working, sitting, or sleeping.
  • Counseling: As discussed before back pain can also arise due to stress; in such a case talking to a counselor would prove to be a stress buster with a relief to the back pain.
  • Acupuncture: It is an alternative medication from ancient China that uses needles to relieve the pain, and has been proven to provide relief from pregnancy related back pain.
  • Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy also helps in relieving the back pain, but should be pursued only under medical supervision.
  • Pain Medication: When nothing helps in reducing the pain, pain medication can also be taken which provides immediate but short term relief. Below are some medicines that are safe from pregnancy perspective but should not be taken without medical supervision.

              – Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

              – Aspirin

              – Muscle relaxants

How to Prevent Back Pain during Pregnancy?

Though the back pain cannot be curbed completely, but a few do’s and don’ts undoubtedly help in preventing the back ache to a large extent.

  • If a pillow is placed between the knees while sleeping or lying by the side, then it would reduce the stress on the back.
  • While sitting on a chair, a rolled-up towel or a soft cushion can be placed behind to support the back.
  • Placing the feet high on a stool and sitting straight with the shoulders pulled back reduces the back pain.
  • Wearing a belt supporting the back helps in soothing the pain.
  • Sleeping on the back should be avoided. It is best to sleep on the sides, particularly on the left side.
  • Getting loads of rest.
  • Escaping footwear with high heels or the ones that do not provide adequate support to the feet.
  • Avoid lifting heavy weights.
  • Avoid bending over; instead using a squat position helps a lot.
  • Using a firm mattress for sleeping that supports the back.

When to seek help?

Generally, medical help is not required for the ongoing back pain during pregnancy but there are certain scenario’s which need to considered and require medical intervention.

  • Persistence of a severe pain for a long period.
  • Sudden upsurge of pain with an abrupt increase.
  • Periodic painful cramps generating around the back region as these may also be an indication of preterm labor or a urinary tract infection.

Conclusion

Back pain is a part and parcel of pregnancy, it can be encountered in any phase during the entire period but it still deserves attention. The changes in the body and increase in the size of the baby increases the pressure on spine and pelvic area. The severity of the pain can vary from individual to individual, but if preventive measures are followed religiously the pain can be reduced extensively. There can also be critical conditions where medical help should be taken as soon as possible.

Also Read:

– Pregnancy Infographic
Pregnancy and Mental Health Concern

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