Back pain in pregnancy

Back Pain in Pregnancy

Back pain during pregnancy is a common problem. Somewhere between ½ and ¾ of pregnant women will experience it at some stage.  There are many things you can do to ease back pain and prevent it from turning into a long-term problem.  There are a number of physical reasons for back pain in pregnancy which include:

  • Pregnancy hormones soften ligaments causing joints to move more than usual. In some cases the ligaments can become strained
  • The position of the baby
  • Postural problems caused by the growing uterus

You are also more likely to experience back pain during pregnancy if you are overweight or if it is your second or subsequent pregnancy. Strenuous work, previous lower back pain or injury to your pelvis can also exacerbate back pain.  Back pain in pregnancy can be divided into two categories:

  1. True back pain; which is caused by the same factors as back pain in women who are not pregnant
  2. Pelvic girdle pain; which happens as a result of pregnancy and needs to be managed very differently

Back pain can be helped by making sure that you are as fit as possible before becoming pregnant. If you are already pregnant it is important to commence light physical activity to reduce your chances of suffering back pain.  The following suggestions may help ease your back pain:

  • Exercise: Strong abdominal muscles reduce the possibility of back pain significantly. Ask your doctor or contact a physiotherapist who specialises in back pain in pregnancy. If you are a member of a gym ask a qualified instructor. Walking is a great exercise, as is swimming
  • Massage: A trained massage therapist or physiotherapist can help soothe tired, aching muscles. It is important to see someone who is qualified in antenatal care
  • Good posture: Good posture is very important. Avoid slouching where possible. To avoid slouching while sitting place a rolled up towel or cushion beneath the lower part of your back.
  • Maternity pillows: Sleeping on your side with a wedge shaped pillow underneath you abdomen may assist. A soft pillow between your knees also may help. You may need to experiment with various pillows and cushions until you find what works for you
  • Heat and water: A warm bath, a hot pack, or a warm jet of water from a shower head can ease discomfort
  • Correct lifting: This is especially important if you have a young child. If kneeling or squatting down to pick up your child becomes difficult you can sit in a chair and get your child to climb up into your lap
  • Delegating house work: Heavy activity such as vacuuming, hanging washing on the line or carrying heavy shopping bags should be avoided. If possible get somebody to help you
  • Support belts: These take some of the weight of the baby off your abdominal muscles and back and help support your pelvic joints. A physiotherapist can help correctly fit you for the appropriate support belt
  • Rest: Listen to your body. You will need to rest as your pregnancy advances
  • Pain relief: Gentle pain relief such as Panadol can sometimes alleviate discomfort. If you are experiencing back pain consult your midwife or doctor. If necessary they will be able to refer you along to see an antenatal physiotherapist. These practitioners will be able to assess the cause of your back pain and treatment will vary depending on the cause