One of the most common complaints I hear about from pregnant women is that they have back pain; especially during the later stages of pregnancy. Since there are many reasons as to why women can develop back pain during pregnancy, it is important to find the root of the problem before attempting to treat it. Seeing a Physical Therapist to help assess and diagnose your back pain will help you find relief faster.
Causes of Back Pain during Pregnancy
Back pain can be caused by a variety of reasons, and the first step in treating pack pain is identifying why you have back pain and where it is coming from. Visiting a Physical Therapist for a thorough evaluation is usually a good idea when you cannot identify the cause of your back pain, or if it is affecting your daily life.
-Increasing weight gain during pregnancy
- The increase in weight during your pregnancy means that your body has to support more weight than it is used to. This puts more pressure on your spine and the muscles, ligaments, joints, blood vessels, and nerves that surround it.
-Postural Changes/ Center of Gravity Changes during Pregnancy
-As your pregnancy progresses and your belly becomes bigger, your center of gravity shifts (forward) to adjust for the change in weight and position of your belly. As your center of gravity shifts, you will begin to adjust your posture during sitting, standing, and moving. The change in posture may put strain on muscles, joints, and ligaments, causing back pain.
-Hormonal Changes during Pregnancy
- During pregnancy, your body produces Relaxin; a hormone that allows the ligaments in your pelvic area to relax so that the joints become looser in preparation for delivery. Relaxin can also affect the ligaments in your spine, causing them to loosen and lead to instability and pain due to muscle strain.
-Stress during Pregnancy
-Some believe that stress can accumulate in weaker areas of the body in the form of tension. Muscle tension in your back during stressful periods in your pregnancy can lead to back pain, back strain, or back spasms.
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Relieving Back Pain
If you do not suffer from chronic back pain, and your back pain is associated with pregnancy changes; most likely, the pain will resolve after pregnancy. In the meanwhile, there are several ways you can relieve back pain.
-Seeing a Physical Therapist
-A physical Therapist can evaluate the cause of your back pain and recommend the appropriate methods in which you can relieve the pain. A physical therapist can adjust your posture, prescribe an appropriate exercise program, and provide manual muscle techniques that can ease your aching back.
-Exercising regularly during pregnancy can help decrease back pain, or even reduce your chances of having back pain. Exercise helps to strengthen your muscles, improve flexibility, and maintain a proper posture; which can reduce the stress being placed on your spine. Strengthening your core muscles is just as important as strengthening your back muscles in order for you to have a balanced trunk and decrease back pain. A Physical Therapist can better help you strengthen the appropriate muscles and find a more appropriate posture.
-Having the correct posture while you are sitting, standing, walking, or laying down is important in avoiding back pain, and relieving back pain if you already have it. Slouching while sitting puts a lot of strain on your back, as does having a lordotic posture due to your growing belly and forward center of gravity. Sleeping on your side can also cause back pain and neck pain due to the curvature of your spine. Finding the proper posture will help with more even weight distribution, as well as decrease strain on your spine. If you do not know how to find a proper posture, a Physical Therapist can help you find the appropriate posture during sitting, standing, and laying down.
-Using proper Body Mechanics
-When picking up something, squat down instead of bending your back. Try not to perform too many twisting motions that can put a strain on your back. Avoid sleeping on your back. Wear proper shoes to alleviate extra strain from your feet, which might misalign your posture and your back.
-Heat or Cold application
-Applying heat or cold to your back can help decrease back pain. It is recommended that you speak to a healthcare provider before applying heat or cold to your back.
-Wearing a Support Belt or Belly Band
-Wearing a support belt or belly band (slight compression) can help offload the weight and strain from your back that is caused by your growing and forward moving belly. It is important to keep in mind that you should strengthen your core muscles while using the belly band as a support garment; it is not a permanent fix.
Elina Skripochnik PT, DPT, CSCS
Elina is a Physical Therapist with experience in women's health and pediatrics. She aims to educate women on the importance of becoming and staying active during pregnancy, as well as to provide safe and easy exercises that can be done throughout pregnancy and beyond.