Back Pain and Pregnancy

Back Pain and Pregnancy

May 26, 2023 by Nicole Harnett

The joy of pregnancy brings with it no shortage of physical changes to your body, from tender breasts to hourly toilet breaks. As your pregnancy progresses, you may find yourself experiencing lower back pain more often than usual. The good news is that back pain in pregnancy is entirely normal and quite common. Between 50 – 80% of women will experience back pain at some stage during their pregnancy. In most cases the lower back pain will develop toward the third trimester of pregnancy – between the five-and seven-month mark. While it may be uncomfortable, back pain in pregnancy can be managed. Atkins Health regularly work with clients to assist them manage the physical toll of pregnancy.

What causes back pain in pregnancy?

Understanding what causes back pain in pregnancy can help determine the right course of action to manage it. Unfortunately it’s not a one size fits all approach. During pregnancy your body undergoes an abundance of changes. With so much going on at once, it’s no surprise your body might struggle to adapt perfectly. Your back pain may stem from a single root cause, or an interplay of several. These may include:

  • Hormones — During pregnancy, a wave of hormones are released to allow the pelvic-area to develop in preparation for childbirth. These anatomical changes can impact the support your back normally experiences.
  • Centre of gravity — As your baby grows, your centre of gravity will be pulled forward by the additional weight. This can cause posture changes which can in turn cause strain on your lower back 
  • Additional weight — most women will gain 10 – 15kgs during pregnancy. This constant weight bearing can take its toll on your body. Since it’s the spine that must support this additional weight, the pain is most commonly felt by the lower back. 
  • Posture or position — Poor posture, excessive standing and bending over can trigger or escalate back pain.
  • Stress — Pregnancy is a stressful time for most women, and this emotional stress often builds up to muscle tension.

When should I worry about back pain in pregnancy?

As an expecting mother, it’s natural to wonder if or when you should worry about back pain in pregnancy. As we mentioned earlier, back pain is a normal part of more than 50% of pregnancies. But if you’re worried your back pain may be a sign of a deeper concern, there are some further signs you can monitor for. If you experience back pain accompanied by any of the following symptoms, we suggest checking in with your healthcare provider. 

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Sporadic period-like cramping
  • Fever accompanied by dull lower back ache
  • Numbness, tingling, or sharp shooting pain from feet to back
  • Sudden severe pain
  • Back pain following physical trauma

How to relieve back pain during pregnancy

Of course the most important question is how to relieve back pain during pregnancy. The good news is that – like most pregnancy symptoms – your back pain will subside before you give birth. But in the lead up to that, there are ways to alleviate your lower back pain during pregnancy. Working with a physio for pregnancy or an exercise physiologist in our back pain program are two of the most effective ways to manage back pain. A trained professional can assess the root of your pain and any triggers that may be exacerbating it. They can then prescribe individualised techniques to manage and alleviate the pain when it strikes. 

Some common tips our practitioners give for managing back pain in pregnancy include:

  • Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time – try and get up for walk once an hour
  • Avoid heavy lifting. If you must lift heavy objects, ensure you are bending at your kees, not the hips, and lift with your arms and legs. 
  • Wear flat shoes
  • Get a prenatal massage or take warm baths
  • Strengthen your stomach muscles using pelvic tilts to relieve pressure off your back

How to relieve back pain during pregnancy while sleeping

Sleeping can be one of the most troubling times for pregnant women with back pain. Fortunately, there are certain positions and support items designed to take the pain out of sleeping. To relieve back pain during pregnancy while sleeping, our physiotherapists and exercise physiologists recommend:

  • Sleeping on your side rather than your back
  • Keep one or both knees bent
  • Rest a pillow between your bent knees
  • Use a wedge pillow to provide support under your abdomen
  • Place a pillow behind your back for support
  • Opt for a firmer mattress

Visiting a pregnancy physio also provides the opportunity to manage any other musculoskeletal troubles that may arise. This could include anything from headaches through to pelvic pain and carpal tunnel.

Contact us below with your questions or if you would like to book an appointment with any of our qualified pre-post natal coaches, join our back pain program or view more women’s health services available at Atkins Health including reformer Pilates classes and remedial massage.

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