Pregnancy and Back Pain: The “Why’s” and the Remedies
The journey of the 9 months is the most beautiful thing in a women's life. The feeling of motherhood is parallel to nothing in this world. The growth, the sensations, the fetal movements, the heartbeats all are beyond the ability to explain with. Yet in between all these pleasant feelings and emotions, there exist certain discomforts and unpleasant bodily symptoms. Some starts right at the beginning of the pregnancy like the morning sickness, vomiting tendencies, dizziness, while some other waits till you advance a little viz., leg swelling, back pain, etc.
Back pain during pregnancy is a most common discomfort faced by almost all would-be mothers.1 As you advance with your pregnancy the pain increases in intensity and frequency. Even lying down becomes difficult for some and doesn't give any relief. Taking a hot compression could give you relief in case of other pain, but hot compression during pregnancy is a strict "no-no" especially around your lower abdomen and back.
The "Why's" Of Back Pain During Pregnancy
The reasons for back pain during pregnancy are mentioned below:
- Changing Posture: The change in posture due to the bulging of the belly puts a lot of strain in the spine and the back muscles.1 As the uterus enlarges, the center of gravity shifts resulting in straining the back, weakening of the abdominal muscles and change in posture. Your muscles, especially those of the back and legs need to work more to carry that extra weight thus stressing the ligaments and joints.
- Hormones Responsible For The Pain: During pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is released by the body which helps in relaxing of the muscles and ligaments in your pelvic region and also loosening of the pelvic bone to promote easy delivery.2 This loosening of the pelvic ligaments worsens the pain.
- Compressing Nerve: The back pain can also occur due to nerve compression in the abdomen.
- Stress: Stress in general can be hurting either physically or mentally.3 During pregnancy, since the body is weak, stress usually triggers the pain that you already experience. Emotional stress can lead to muscle tension resulting in spasms in back and pain. Many women experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy due to the strong hormonal changes. Depression can also worsen the pain in the back.
Steps To Get Relief From Back Pain During Pregnancy
- Exercise Regime: Increasing number of healthcare professionals believe that a pregnant woman should engage in regular exercise regime.4 Following a regular routine of exercise during pregnancy will help in strengthening the back and abdominal muscles, increase the flexibility while reducing the back strain. Maintain a normal breathing throughout the exercise and NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATHE. In case you start feeling dizzy or abdominal pain or feel that the fluid is coming out, contact your doctor immediately.
- Posture Correction: Posture change due to shifting of the center of gravity is the main reason of back pain during pregnancy. Thus learning to maintain the posture while pregnant can relieve the pain to a great extent. Resting your back when sitting on a chair while raising your feet a little would take the stress off from your back. When you are standing, try to broaden your base while placing your feet a little farther. The increase in base will promote better weight distribution and also prevent from falls.
- Physical Therapy: Physical therapists, apart from treating the injuries that has already happened, could also help the woman from further injuries by teaching them the correct way to sit, stand, walk, bend, exercise, lie down etc during pregnancy.
- Prenatal Yoga: Prenatal yoga is gaining a wide attention all over the world as more and more women are opting for it.5 It teaches definite yoga postures that help alleviate the pain, improve the posture, and provides grounding. It is also known for providing benefits of relaxing the mind and body (including the muscles and nerves) while promoting better sleep. Prenatal yoga helps in toning the muscles of the abdomen.
- Massage: A pregnant women can also opt for massage from a certified prenatal massage therapist. A gentle massage can release the pain temporarily and put you at ease. However, make sure not to provide deep pressure on the areas just beside the spine as it consists of lots of nerves and can complicate the situation if proper care is not taken.
- Acupuncture: Several studies have shown a positive correlation between back pain and acupuncture. The aim is to stimulate acupuncture pressure points in the body to promote healthy flowing of body's energy (known as Qi or Chi). It can be done either by inserting needles on the pressure points or by stimulating the points by putting deep pressure by fingers (known as acupressure).
- Choice of Shoes During Pregnancy To Avoid Pain in the Back: Wearing heels during pregnancy not only increases the chances of falling down due to improper weight distribution, it can also increase your back pain. A low-heeled and comfortable shoes (may be a medicated one) would provide better support for your weight, your legs and back. It is even better if you could find something with a back-belt.
- Maternity Belt: Being easily available in stores providing maternity clothes, it is an easy option to relieve the pain. Maternity belts provide better support to the abdominal muscles and prevent the spine from extreme curvature.
- Swimming: Swimming being the best exercise of all time throughout the life is also a great one during pregnancy. Swimming relaxes the muscles around the spine, since in water the gravitation pull of the earth has no effect. It takes the pressure off from the spine while reducing the pain and also helps in strengthening the legs, arms and abdominal muscles.
- Sleeping on the Sides To Relieve Pain in the Back During Pregnancy: As your weight increases, it increases the curvature of your spine, thus making it difficult to lie down on your back. Lying on the back rather could increase the pain and many face difficulty in breathing as well. Thus experts suggest lying on your side as you advance with the pregnancy. It provides a support to your bulging belly as well. It is best to take a pillow in between your knees to relax the back muscles and ligaments.
- Meditation: Meditation during pregnancy could help in relaxing your mind and body.6 Moreover, deep breathing in meditation helps to maintain the oxygen level in the body required both for you and the baby.
- Maternity Bra To Avoid Pain in the Back During Pregnancy: As you advance to the second or third trimester, the breasts also become fuller and heavier. This causes a lot of strain in your upper back and shoulder. You can opt for maternity bra with bigger cup coverage and a wider strap to provide better support. This can take the pressure off from the back and shoulder and release the pain.
Prevention Of Back Pain During Pregnancy
As we all know, "prevention is better than cure." So as soon as you confirm your pregnancy, start planning your things to prevent the back pain from coming in. A few easy steps would help you with it.
- Squat and use your leg muscles for picking things up rather than bending from the waist.
- Move cautiously to prevent getting injured.
- Developing the habit of sleeping on the sides with folded knees.
- Start your yoga sessions as this will promote proper growth of the baby, provide good posture and prevents you from developing the back pain.
- Avoid twisting your back or spine. Rather move your feet and whole body.
- Avoid lifting and carrying heavy objects.
- Take adequate rest.
- Drink plenty of fluid to prevent dehydration as inadequate salt content could also lead to muscle cramps and pain.
- Take a good and healthy diet loaded with all nutrients to prevent weakness of the body.
One thing to keep in mind is that back pain doesn't mean that there are complications in your pregnancy. It's a part and parcel of pregnancy which is experienced by 50-70% of all pregnant women. However, taking the precautions right from the beginning could stop you from experiencing the pain in the back related to pregnancy. If you are already having it, consult your physician and you could try out the different ways which will help you in relaxing your muscles and relieve the pain. Remember a happy mother with a stress-free pregnancy will deliver a healthy baby.