Pregnancy can be an exciting time, where you look forward to the joy of bringing home your baby. But let’s face it, it can also be uncomfortable. One of the most common problems that women face during pregnancy is back pain – more than half of all expectant mothers experience some degree of back pain. This usually gets worse as the pregnancy progresses and is related to the physical changes that come with pregnancy.
Weakened Abdominal Muscles, Strained Back Muscles, And Hormonal Changes Cause Back Pain During Pregnancy
Back pain can sometimes be indicative of preterm labor or a urinary tract infection. If you have intense pain or if your back pain doesn’t resolve even after 2 weeks, you should run it by your doctor. Also, see your doctor immediately if you have additional symptoms such as fever, vaginal bleeding, or a burning pain when you urinate.1
- The abdominal muscles support your spine but when you are pregnant, these muscles may become weaker as they get stretched. This can increase chances of back pain as well as injury to the back.
- The weight of the baby and weakening of abdominal muscles also results in your lower spine getting pulled forward during pregnancy. This places the muscles in your back under strain and can throw your posture, leading to back pain.
- To prepare for the passage of your baby during delivery, hormones known as progesterone and relaxin loosen joints and ligaments and relax muscles during pregnancy, particularly in the pelvic area. This can sometimes lead to back pain.
Here are a few simple but effective tips to help you tackle back pain during pregnancy:234
1. Apply A Cold Or Hot Pack
For topical pain relief, apply ginger paste or arnica ointment. Having a hot cup of turmeric tea should also help. Just be sure not to go overboard with these natural remedies and run them by your doctor if you are on other medication.
A simple remedy that can provide immediate relief for your backache is applying a cold or hot pack to the area – both have been known to work; so choose what suits you. You can use a hot water bottle to apply gentle heat. A cold pack may work as well – just wrap ice in a washcloth and apply it to your back. Remember not to use ice directly on your back as it can result in a cold burn. Your hot water pack can also be covered in a cloth so it doesn’t scald your skin.5
2. Maintain Proper Posture
Taking care to maintain proper posture can help ward off back pain during pregnancy. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Avoid bending down from the waist. If you need to pick something up, bend your knees and squat, keeping your back straight.
- Try not to twist your spine; instead, move your feet when you need to turn.
- While sleeping, try to lie on your side and place a couple of pillows under your belly or between the legs to provide support.
- Flex your knees and squeeze them together when you turn in bed.6
3. Stop Lifting Heavy Objects
It’s best to avoid lifting heavy things during your pregnancy as this can strain your back. In case you need to carry something like grocery, make sure that you balance and distribute the weight by using two bags and employ both your hands. Also, take care not to put your weight on just one leg during everyday activities such as getting dressed.
4. Get A Firm Mattress And Supportive Pillows
Invest in a firm mattress that supports your back. You can even place a hardboard beneath a soft mattress to make it more firm. Also, make sure your back is supported while you are sitting. Maternity support pillows can help you do this.
5. Wear Low-Heeled Shoes
Use shoes that provide good arch support. Low-heeled shoes are a good idea. If you’re using flats, make sure they have built-in arch supports. High heels can upset your balance and make falls more likely; so avoid them.
6. Exercise Regularly
Exercises can help stretch muscles which support the back and make them stronger. This not only relieves back pain but also prepares you for childbirth. Try this gentle exercise which works on your abdominal muscles and can ease back pain:
- Get down on your hands and knees with your knees beneath the hips and your hands beneath your shoulders. Lift up your stomach muscles so that your back remains straight.
- Pull your stomach muscles in and lift up your back toward the roof. Let your head and buttocks gently relax downward, without allowing your elbows to lock.
- Hold this position for a few seconds before going back to the starting position. Remember to keep your back straight when you return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times.7
7. Try Yoga
Aquanatal exercises under the guidance of a qualified instructor can also help ease back pain. The buoyancy of the water will also make you feel lighter and limber and help relax you.8
Prenatal yoga can help build muscles which support your back and tackle back pain during pregnancy. For instance, the cat/cow pose, a sequence combining the cat pose or marjaryasana and the cow pose or bitilasana, is a great antidote to back pain. It stretches the spine and eases tension. Utthita parsvakonasana or extended side angle pose can also help.
Get the help of a qualified instructor who will teach you modified yoga positions that will accommodate your shifting balance. You might also need to avoid positions that involve lying flat on the back or standing still. When you lie down flat, the uterus presses on a vein which sends blood to your heart; standing still, on the other hand, can result in blood pooling in your feet and legs.
8. Go For Massage Therapy
Research shows that massage therapy during pregnancy can not only reduce back pain but also alleviate leg pain and improve mood and sleep. One study even found that women who had massage therapy had reduced urinary stress hormone levels and experienced fewer complications during delivery. Many different techniques can be used for massage during pregnancy but typically a gentle massage is recommended. And once again, it’s best to avoid lying flat on the back for your massage.9 10 Approach an experienced masseuse or ayurvedic practitioner so you get the right care. A medicated ayurvedic oil like mahanarayana taila can also be used for the massage and can bring relief from the pain. This is a medicinal formulation containing sesame oil, milk, and a multitude of beneficial herbs like bilva, ashwagandha, brihati, and shatavari.
9. Check Out Acupuncture
The practice of acupuncture is founded on the ancient Chinese theory that an imbalance or blockage in the flow of the life force called qi lies at the root of disease. This is rectified by stimulating certain specific points in the body known as acupoints. And research indicates that acupuncture can help ease back pain in women during pregnancy. Acupuncture is generally considered to be safe during pregnancy though the acupuncturist must take care to avoid certain specific acupoints associated with the uterus and cervix which can induce labor. Do make sure that you go to a trained practitioner and check in with your obstetrician before you try this remedy.11
|↑1, ↑4||Back Pain During Pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.|
|↑2||Back Pain in Pregnancy. University of Rochester Medical Center.|
|↑3, ↑7||Back pain in pregnancy. National Health Service.|
|↑5||Back pain. National Health Service.|
|↑6, ↑11||Vermani, Era, Rajnish Mittal, and Andrew Weeks. “Pelvic girdle pain and low back pain in pregnancy: a review.” Pain Practice 10, no. 1 (2010): 60-71.|
|↑8||Exercise During Pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.|
|↑9||Field, Tiffany, M. Hemandez-Reif, S. Hart, H. Theakston, S. Schanberg, and C. Kuhn. “Pregnant women benefit from massage therapy.” Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology 20, no. 1 (1999): 31-38.|
|↑10||Pregnancy massage. Healthdirect, Australia.|