Low back pain is very common during pregnancy and is a common complaint made by many women. For many women, lower back pain can begin to set it around the 18th week of pregnancy, though the farther along in pregnancy you are, the more likely you are to experience it. You may also be at a higher risk of experiencing lower back pain if you were experiencing pain prior to becoming pregnant. There are things that you can do to reduce the amount of pain you experience without the need for medication.
Why is Low Back Pain Common During Pregnancy?
The causes for lower back pain can vary for each woman and can be different for each pregnancy, but the most common culprits for the pain are weight gain, postural changes, and hormones. There are other causes, such as diastasis recti (abdominal separation), stress, or lack of physical activity, but know that there are many safe and effective methods to relieving or decreasing the discomfort.
The hormone relaxin is a large contributor to lower back pain, but is also the same hormone that is also responsible for the mom-to-be’s flexibility and range of motion increasing during pregnancy. Relaxin’s primary job is to prepare a woman’s body for childbirth by relaxing the muscles, joints, and ligaments in order to move the baby down the birth canal. Relaxin is also the culprit behind feeling wobbly and off-balance while walking as your pregnancy progresses, so it is imperative that you work to maintain your balance throughout the duration of your pregnancy to reduce the risk of falling.
Weight Gain during Pregnancy:
Your OB-GYN has probably discussed this with you: as baby grows, the number on the scale will increase. According to WebMD, the increase in weight includes the baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, increase in breast tissue, increased blood supply, fat stored for breastfeeding, and the uterus growing to accommodate the growing baby. With the extra weight that is gained weekly, a change in your center of gravity happens which directly affects your posture.
When not pregnant, your spine likes to be in a neutral position with your ears over your shoulders, shoulders over the hips, hips over the knees, and the knees over the ankles. During pregnancy, the growing baby causes change to your center of gravity by protruding forward, which creates extra stress and strain on the muscles in the lower back by pulling the lumbar spine forward. This increase in stress then causes you to lean backward to maintain balance and exaggerates the natural curve in your lower back and increasing the amount of pain and discomfort felt.
Also known as abdominal separation, diastasis recti (DR) is experienced by up to 60% of women during pregnancy a study found. This happens when the two parallel bands of abdominal muscles separate and the connective tissue (linea alba) that holds them together tears (there’s no pain if or when it happens). If this happens, it is correctable after delivery.
Safe Alternatives to Help Reduce Low Back Pain During Pregnancy
A TENs unit can be a safe alternative to use on the lower back to temporarily relieve pain. A Tens unit is a small device that passes electrical current into the muscle to help calm the nerves without going deep enough to effect the baby. When the nerves calm down, the pain will decrease for a period of time. There has even been research that a TENS unit may increase placenta blood flow which is a good thing. Our favorite Tens unit is the iReliev TENS Unit.
A hot pack is a safe and easy way to help with low back pain during pregnancy. Use a hot pack that can be put in the microwave and or an electric heating pad that has an auto off timer for safety. Use it for 20 minutes at a time. The best times to use it is right before bed and first thing in the morning to help get the stiffness out.
The simple yet life saving pregnancy pillow that makes a huge difference during pregnancy. There are many different options out there but the basics are the same. Support the baby bump, help the hips stay in alignment, and help support the back. These are even really comfy when you’re not pregnant.
A safe and easy belt that adds to support to the back and the baby bump. The maternity belts are adjustable so it can grow as you do. The fabric is breathable and lightweight. The best part is the maternity belt can be used as needed, so you only wear it when you are hurting or going to be busy that day.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Low Back Pain and Pregnancy
When Does Back Pain Typically Start in Pregnancy?
Back pain can start at any time during pregnancy and depends on many different factors however it typically can start around 18 weeks or after. As the pregnancy progresses, there is an increased chance for low back pain to occur.
How Long Will Back Pain Last After Pregnancy?
For the most part, low back pain will start to slowly dissipate after birth but especially 6 weeks after giving birth. At 6 weeks postpartum the muscles have begun to tighten up, posture is improving, and the body is continuing to heal.
Can I do Core Exercises During Pregnancy?
It is ok and even beneficial to do core exercises during pregnancy with modifications. We DO NOT recommend doing sit-ups because of the risk of diastasis recti. There are many other great core exercises that can safely be performed during pregnancy.
Will I Have Back Pain After Pregnancy?
Just because you have back pain during pregnancy does not mean that you will have back pain after pregnancy. Often times back pain is transient and NOT a sign of serious injury or harm.
Does Back Pain Affect the Baby During Pregnancy?
Normal back pain does not harm the growing baby. The majority of back pain during pregnancy is from musculoskeletal stress and body changes. If you have back pain with abnormal bleeding, changes in bowel/bladder, or unexplained sudden muscle weakness then it is a recommended emergency, although these instances are rare.
The Best Exercises to Reduce Back Pain With Pregnancy
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines, if you are healthy and pregnancy is normal, it is safe to continue or start most types of exercise. Adjustments are needed as your pregnancy progresses and you should discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor.
Pelvic Tilt Against the Wall
- Lean against the wall with your feet about hip width apart and have your knees slightly bent to keep your natural arch
- You’re going to have a gap in between that wall and your spine.
- You’re then going to exhale and roll those hips forward so your back is flat against the wall.
- Once you are here you’re going to hold it for about five seconds and then inhale and go back to your natural arch.
Side Lying Clamshells with a Band
- Start by lying on your side with a small loop resistance band wrapped around your legs just above the knee. The hips should be bent and the knees should be bent as well.
- Without rotating in your spine, lift your top knee towards the ceiling. It’s important to keep your feet touch so the rotation happens on the in the hips.
- Return to a starting position nice and slow. You will feel the muscles in the deep hip working hard during this one.
Standing Pelvic Tilt
- Set your feet hip-width apart with a soft bed in the knees.
- Roll your hips forward to tuck your tailbone underneath you while exhaling.
- As you inhale, slowly roll your hips backward to untuck your tailbone to return to starting position.
Wide Child’s Pose for Pregnancy
- Start in a kneeling position on the floor and open your knees wide, feet together.
- Keep sinking your hips down towards your heels then walk your upper body forward,
- Then roll the pelvis under so the tailbone is tucking farther underneath you.
- In this position, just breathe easily: inhaling into the ribcage and even into the low back then exhale slowly.
Pigeon Pose During Pregnancy
- While pregnant, you have to be a little more accommodating for your pigeon and use a towel, blanket, etc. under the pelvis so that the belly can be out of the way for the stretch.
- Take your right leg in front of the towel (foot may be close to the towel when in position) and bend the knee, so your lower leg is resting on its side.
- Have your left leg stretch out behind you on the opposite side of the towel.
- From here, very gently relax your hips into the towel and bend forward into a gentle position and relax into the stretch.
- When you’re ready to come out of the pose, very gently bring your hands underneath the shoulders and slowly use your arms to lift your chest.
- From there, you can just sit off to one side and gently draw the leg back.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Pregnancy Deep Squat Hold
- A TRX Suspension Trainer is used in the video but can substitute the back of a couch or something supportive.
- Get into a squat position with your feet wider than hip width, toes turned out slightly or where they feel the most comfortable for you.
- Sink your hips down towards the floor, keeping your knees tracking outwards so
- your belly can go comfortably between your legs.
- The pelvis is turning outward (away from your front) not tucking under to alleviate the tightness in the hips and lower back.
- Hold for the amount of time that’s comfortable, then you can stand up and out of it, or you can go back down.
Cat-Cow During Pregnancy
- Come into a quadruped position with your hands directly under the shoulders and the knees directly under the hips.
- Spread your fingers nice and wide.
- As you inhale, roll your shoulders back, lift your chest and head, let your belly lower just below neutral (cow pose). *Note: don’t lower your belly till you feel discomfort in the lower back*
- As you exhale round the spine towards the sky, push down through the floor, tuck your hips under and drop the head into your chest (cat pose).
- Repeat as many times as needed to stretch and release.
This is for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor or a medical professional before starting any exercise program.
Back Pain During Pregnancy
Editors What to Expect – https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/backache.aspx
Women’s Health Care Physicians-
Back Pain During Pregnancy: 7 Tips For Relief
Back Pain During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatments
Back Pain During Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment & Prevention
Back Pain in Pregnancy: Causes, Pain Relief, and Prevention
Jamie Eske – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324545.php
Weight Gain During Pregnancy: How Much Is Normal?
Women’s Health Care Physicians
Diastasis Recti Abdominis During Pregnancy and 12 Months After Childbirth: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Report Of Lumbopelvic Pain
Jorun Sperstad-Merete Tennfjord-Gunvor Hilde-Marie Ellström-Engh-Kari Bø – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5013086/
The Best Stretches To Do During Pregnancy
What Editors – https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/stretches[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.