Most women will experience some sort of discomfort in their back while carrying their child. It is possible to have back pain at any time during pregnancy, but it usually occurs in the last trimester (last three months) as the baby grows and puts more pressure on the body.
In 2008, a study published in Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine reported an increased incidence of back pain associated with pregnancy. Evidence suggests low back pain is the normal result of a multitude of mechanical, hormonal and vascular changes associated with pregnancy.
A 2011 study published in Hippokratia also confirms that low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal complaints of pregnant women. For some women, it may be the outburst of chronic low back pain, and for others, it may be disabling pain during pregnancy and for a variable period after delivery.
Backache during pregnancy can be attributed to a number of factors like mechanical, hormonal, etc. The most probable causes include:
Women who are overweight or had back pain prior to pregnancy are at a higher risk of having back pain during pregnancy.
You can reduce the intensity of backache during the pregnancy by taking certain precautions.
Severe backache that lasts more than 2 weeks needs immediate medical attention. Medical attention might also be needed in case backache is accompanied by any of the following:
Back pain can disrupt your daily routine and interfere with a good night’s sleep. The good news is there are several things you can do to help deal with pregnancy-related back pain.
Here are some of the best ways to deal with backaches during pregnancy.
To ease back pain during pregnancy, exercise is the best option. Exercising regularly would strengthen your muscles which in turn would prepare your body to cope with the aches and pains of pregnancy.
A 2012 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that exercising during mid-pregnancy can result in a lower prevalence of low back pain, pelvic girdle pain and depression in late pregnancy.
Pregnancy-related low back pain is often recommended to be managed with exercise using moderate strength and stabilization exercises.
During pregnancy, walking is a great exercise. You could also include swimming, low-impact aerobics and cycling on stationary bike in your exercise routine after consulting your doctor.
Getting a prenatal massage from a certified prenatal massage therapist can bring quick relief from back pain during pregnancy. Such massage is especially beneficial when the back pain is the result of muscular clenching that irritates nerves and sends pain signals to the brain.
A 1999 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology found that pregnant women who benefited from massage therapy reported reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain.
Another study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies in 2008 found that massage leads to improvement in leg pain, back pain, depression and anxiety as well as reduced anger. There was even improvement in the relationship when the massage was performed by their partners.
Yoga, a mental and physical practice with origins in ancient Indian philosophy, is another way to get relief from back pain during pregnancy.
Prenatal yoga can help improve your posture and tone your body, which in turn can help reduce the pain. It can also help you sleep better and relax your mind and muscles. Plus, yoga helps in preparation for the birthing process.
A 2015 study published in the Japanese journal Nihon Koshu Eisei Zasshi reports that prenatal yoga may help reduce pelvic pain and back pain as well as improve mental health conditions (stress, depression, anxiety, etc.) and perinatal outcomes (obstetrical complications, delivery time, etc.)
A 2012 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that an active ingredient in a yoga program may be mindfulness, which has been effective in symptom reduction and general health improvement in a variety of conditions that are relevant to pregnancy, such as anxiety, depression, back pain and stress.
During pregnancy, it is recommended that you join prenatal yoga classes rather than doing it on your own.
To deal with back pain during pregnancy, you need to try to maintain a good posture. First of all, you need to avoid lounging around in a chair all day, as it actually puts more strain on your spine and causes more pain in your back.
When sitting, use a good quality chair that provides good support, preferably with a straight back, arms and a firm cushion.
Also, use a footrest to elevate your feet slightly, and avoid crossing your legs. You can also place a rolled-up towel for support behind your back.
When sleeping, try to sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees to help take stress off your back. Do not sleep in supine position, as it puts additional pressure on the large vessels circulating blood between you and your baby. This can increase your risk for a stillbirth especially when the baby’s growth is already restricted.
Always stand up tall and straight with your shoulders back, as if you are trying to get your head to touch the ceiling.
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine in which thin needles are inserted into your skin at certain locations. It can be quite effective for relieving low back pain during pregnancy.
A study published in 2004 in Acupuncture in Medicine says that acupuncture seems to alleviate low back and pelvic pain during pregnancy, as well as increase the capacity for some physical activities and diminish the need for drugs, which is a great advantage during this period.
A 2001 study published in Pain Medicine reports that acupuncture seems to be safe and effective for pain relief in lower back pain, pelvic pain or both during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Another study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine in 2017 found that acupuncture demonstrated advantages in treating pregnancy-related low back pain and pelvic pain through quantified experimental data.
Cold compresses made with ice are effective in reducing pain in the back during pregnancy and in labor. The cold temperature reduces inflammation, which helps relieve the pain.
If ice is not available, you can also use a bag of frozen vegetables.
Always make sure you do not put the ice pack directly on the skin; wrap it in a thin towel, then place on the aching area.
Like ice packs, applying moist heat on your back may help. Heat increases blood circulation to the area and warms the muscles to ease pain and inflammation.
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