During pregnancy, the body undergoes many changes and experiences discomfort in various ways. One of these is back pain, which is due to the excess strain on the mother’s back.
The two common types of back pain are:
(1) lumbar pain – Which is felt in the lumbar vertebrae around waist level and tends to be more intense at the end of the day or after long periods of sitting or standing; and
(2) posterior back pain – Which is felt lower than waist level, at the pelvic or even thigh level.
Back pain during pregnancy is caused by various factors, including
– Increased weight, and growing fetus, that shifts the centre of gravity forward and puts strain on the back (more strain if carrying more than one baby)
– Change in posture that the body is not used to, especially for those with weaker back and core muscles
– Nerve compression (depending on the position of your fetus)
– Increased stress on joints
– Hormonal changes that loosen the joint and ligaments and may lead to pain during certain movements
– Muscle separation of the abdominal muscles can also cause pain in abdominal and back muscles
– Stress can increase the tension on the back
While causes such as nerve compression and hormonal changes are not within your control, there are ways to reduce the chances of experiencing back pain.
Well, it’s not too late! Here are 9 ways to prevent back pain!
If the back and core muscles are strong, the body is less likely to experience pain with the increased weight to carry. Check with your doctor on the type of exercise to do as some back strengthening exercises may not be suitable as it requires lying on the abdomen. Prenatal water exercise class is suitable for strengthening your muscles, without straining your joints and ligaments.
It is more likely to experience back pain if you are not flexible; prenatal yoga is a good way to improve your flexibility and balance. Stretch gently and avoid too sudden or difficult stretches.
#3 Maintaining good posture
While it is tempting to slouch due to the weight, this will put more strain on your spine. Instead stand up straight and have your shoulders back. Similarly, sit up straight and you can use a small pillow to support your lower back and a footstool to support your feet.
#4 Avoiding long periods of standing or sitting
Whether standing or sitting, try not to do either for long periods. If your job requires you to sit for long hours, try to get up and walk around every hour. Similarly, take breaks if you are standing all day, and rest one foot on a low stool.
#5 Avoiding strenuous movements
You do not want to lift heavy weights (that requires bending) or do household chores such as vacuuming that twist and strain your back. Given that your back is already under more strain than normal, activities that further stress it can cause you to have back pain. Even wearing high heels can be strenuous as the heels add to the “off-balance” that you are experiencing.
#6 Sleeping on your side
During pregnancy, the increased strain on your spine will be worsened if you lie on your back through the night. Instead sleep on your side, with knees bent and a pillow between your legs. This helps to relieve strain on your lower back and support the weight of your upper leg.
#7 Wearing a back support belt
For some mothers, a back support belt or band helps to relieve the strain on the back. Ask your doctor for a recommended brand and if your skin is sensitive, be sure to check the material and whether there are any seems or buttons that may irritate.
#8 Avoiding sudden movements
Apart from avoiding bending down to lift heavy weight, you should also avoid sudden movements. One common movement that may trigger back pain is getting out of bed in the morning. Instead of sitting up suddenly, slowly bend your knees and roll to the side. Push yourself up as you lower your legs over the side of the bed.
#9 Relieving stress
Stress during pregnancy can cause muscle tension and increase the likelihood of back pain. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or go for daily walks. There may be other concerns such as finances that increase your stress – discuss with your concerns with your spouse.
Even if you are experiencing back pain, it is not too late to do something about it. Lying down and not moving can make it worse as the muscles grow weaker and even less equipped to carry the increasing weight.
Fret not! Here are 6 remedies for your back pain!
#1 Pain relief exercises
You can do some light stretching to relieve the tension on your back. One good exercise is getting on your hands and knees, arms shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart. Round your back as you breathe in and relax your back to a neutral position as you breathe out.
There are prenatal massages that you can try, or get your partner to give you a back rub to ease the tension on your back.
#3 Physical therapy
You can also consult a physical therapist on the exercises you can do to strengthen your back, relieve the back pain and what exercises you should do as your pregnancy progresses.
#4 Warm compress
Some short-term relief can be provided in the form of a warm compress on your lower back, which can help to improve blood flow to your muscles. The heat pack can be placed on your back for 15 minutes, repeated every three hours. Do not overheat your body or abdomen.
If you are comfortable with acupuncture, you can try it to ease the pain on your lower back. If you have a chiropractor that you are comfortable with, you can also ask him/ her to help with your back pain.
#6 Avoid aggravating movements
Movements that aggravate pain should be avoided, such as climbing stairs, extreme hip and spine movements.
Back pain during pregnancy generally does not affect the health of the baby. However, there is a less common but severe back pain known sciatica. Sciatica is caused by herniated or bulging disk in the lower spine, and requires treatment. Severe back pain may also be a sign of preterm labour. If unsure of your back pain, it is important to let your doctor know.