Back Pain During Pregnancy

Pregnancy Back Pain
Pregnancy is a beautiful experience in any women’s life, but it can also be a tough and painful process. Many women have questions or concerns about the changes that pregnancy brings and therefore, it is vital to have the right information. One of the most common pain almost all pregnant women experience and complain about is the abdominal pain and lower back pain during early pregnancy. Back pain can create problems while pregnant, and in most cases continue for an extended time after delivery. Therefore, it should be addressed quickly and managed throughout pregnancy to avoid chronic back pain after pregnancy.

1. Types of Back Pain in Pregnancy

Types of back pain in pregnancy

1.1. Lumbar back pain:

Lumbar pain in pregnant women is similar to the lower back pain experienced by non-pregnant women. In general, the pain is felt at the center of the back above the waist and can increase with sitting, lifting and standing postures.

Usually, the lumbar back pain is mistaken for sciatica, which is a pain that radiates down the leg or toes, although the lumbar pain can cause sciatica pain during pregnancy.

1.2. Posterior pelvic pain

Posterior pelvic pain is felt below the waist in the back of the pelvis. The pain often feels deep and occurs on one or both sides of the back. In some situations, it can spread down to the buttock and back of the thigh. The pelvic pain can begin at any time during pregnancy, and on average it usually starts in the 18th week of pregnancy and continues to become worse as the pregnancy progresses. Some activities such as rolling on the bed, climbing stairs, lifting, bending over, running, and walking can trigger the pelvic pain.

1.3. Upper back pain during pregnancy

There are many reasons why women experience upper back pain during pregnancy. A woman weight gain during pregnancy is about 25%, and this extra weight weakens the muscles in the back which also cause the body to lean forward. As the hormone levels increase, the breasts get bigger and grow throughout pregnancy, which may even pull shoulders down and cause upper back pain during pregnancy. Upper back pain can make pregnancy painful and post pregnancy recovery harder. Therefore, it is good to consult a doctor and seek proper treatment. Avoid lifting heavy objects, perform daily activities and stretches to strengthen the core muscles in the upper back and ease the pain.

One of the most common pain
almost all pregnant women experience and complain about is the
abdominal pain and lower back pain during early pregnancy.

2. Sciatica During Pregnancy

Sciatica is known as a pain that begins from lower back and spread down to the legs. It is also a result of pinched nerve at the lower spine causing numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. The sciatica pain can feel like a deep, sharp, dull, and shooting pain and can range from mild to severe. Women with sciatica pain before pregnancy can experience severe back pain during pregnancy. Sciatica pain can be reduced through stretching, exercise, swimming, massage, chiropractic, and heating pad through heat therapy to stretch muscles and decrease pressure on sciatic nerve. Colleen Fitzgerald, M.D., the medical director of the Chronic Pelvic Pain Program for the Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Illinois, says, “True sciatic nerve problems occur in less than one percent of all pregnant patients. It is more likely that the patient has pelvic girdle pain of the sacroiliac joint region.”

2.1. Common causes of sciatica during pregnancy

  • Muscle tension and unstable joints
  • Pelvic bone pain
  • Sacroiliac joint problems
  • Piriformis syndrome (problem with muscles of the buttocks)
  • Increase in Relaxin hormones
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal narrowing

2.2. Symptoms of sciatica pain during pregnancy

  • Constant ache and discomfort in one side of the buttocks or leg
  • Burning, tingling, and numbness in one leg or foot
  • Weakness and pain in the affected leg & difficulty walking, sitting or standing

3. What Causes Back Pain During Pregnancy

The following reasons can trigger back pains during pregnancy

Weight Gain

Weight gain – As the baby grows the extra added weight on the spine puts pressure on nerves in the pelvis and back, which causes lower back pain during pregnancy. Weight gain also tends to create muscle fatigue which often results in poor posture and cause inflexibility in pregnant women.

Hormone Changes

Relaxin and estrogen are pregnancy-related hormones which relax the joints and ligaments in the pelvis to prepare for the birth process. Adam Romoff, M.D., an associate chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City explains: “The pelvis is three bones glued together, and these hormones loosen the glue.”. The released hormones aren’t restricted to loosen the pelvis area ligaments alone and circulate throughout the entire body. As a result, it loosens all joints in the body and causes instability, which makes the pregnant women more prone to injury. Any weak muscles, ligaments, and weight-bearing joints are particularly at risk of becoming injured, and lower back is mostly affected throughout pregnancy.

Muscle Separation

A the uterus expands the abdominal muscles are stretched and widened on the center seam from rib case to the pubic bone. The ab muscles widely stretched can also cause low back pain during pregnancy. It is important not to strain the belly tissues further by lifting a heavyweight. Some exercise such as lifting, sitting up, crunches, push-ups, and front plunks can make abdominal separation worse.

Stress

Women experience increased pain during the stressful period of their pregnancy. Stress causes muscle stiffness and tension in the back leading to back spasms. Yoga, meditation, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, being active every day, and emotional support can help to reduce stress.

Posture Changes

During pregnancy as the belly grows, it pulls the lumbar spine forward along with it. As a result, the natural inward curve of lumbar spine comes under extra pressure and compresses the vertebrae and lower back muscles which leads to pain. According to Damla Karsan Dryden, M.D., an ob-gyn at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women in Houston: “As the baby grows during pregnancy, the mother’s center of gravity shifts forward, placing more strain on the lower back.”

Following are useful principles for good posture to keep in mind:

  • Keep shoulders relaxed
  • Do not lock your knees
  • Stand up straight
  • Place a comfortable pillow behind your lower back
  • Keep your chest high

Exercise helps to boost flexibility,
relax muscles, ease stress on the spine, and
strengthens back.

4. How to Relieve Back Pain During Pregnancy

Exercise

Regular exercise is one of the first advice given to any pregnant women for back pain relief during pregnancy. Exercise helps to boost flexibility, relax muscles, ease stress on the spine, and strengthens back. Some of the most common exercises include swimming, walking, stationary cycling, prenatal yoga, and meditation. Swimming is a highly recommended exercise because it “takes the pressure off the spine” says Marry Rosser, M.D., Ph.D. at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York. Dr. Rosser says paddling in water helps to decompress the spine, tone legs, arms and core muscles, and relieve pain from the back.

Regular physical activity during pregnancy helps to improve mood, relax muscles, speed up recovery after labor, tone muscles and ensure appropriate weight gain. However, doing a safe pregnancy exercise is highly necessary for baby’s health and safety.

Acupuncture

Originally acupuncture is an East Asian medical technique where needles are inserted into specific points on the body and stimulate pressure points which are connected to various systems of physical and emotional health. Practitioners also use fingers to stimulate acupuncture points instead of needles, which helps to improve digestion, relief for morning sickness, headaches, and back pain.

Although studies have shown a positive direct correlation between acupuncture and pregnancy back pain relief, it is always suggested to take a doctors advice and avoid any unwanted side effects.

Chiropractic Care

Is related to adjusting the misaligned joints in the body to reduce spinal nerve stress, muscular tightness, and nerve compression to relieve back pain. Dr. Robert Kum, co-owner of ChiroCare Associates in Arlington, Massachusetts has treated hundreds of pregnant women says “Chiropractors are good at detecting imbalances and helping to correct them,” and further emphasize that expectant mothers should look for an experienced chiropractor.

Heat and Cold

Heat and cold therapy have been in use as a natural non-surgical remedy for many years. Applying heat or cold to the back helps to relax muscle stiffness and provide comfort. For a minor and nonchronic backache during pregnancy, it is recommended to use cold compresses (cold pad) to the inflamed or injured area initially, and further switch to a heating pad for heat therapy. Heating pad while pregnant can be a great help relieving back pain during pregnancy. However, be careful not to apply the heating pad directly on the abdomen.

Prenatal Yoga

Pregnancy weight causes pain in muscles, back, joints, and nerves. Yoga is one of the most traditional techniques from India adopted for back pain pregnancy treatment. Yoga helps with flexibility, improve posture, emotional stress, better sleep, & relax your mind & muscles.

5. Questions

Is cramping and back pain normal during pregnancy?

The majority of women experiences pregnancy back pain, but the good news is that unless you had a chronic backache before pregnancy, the backache could be controlled before giving birth. Although pregnancy weight gain, hormonal changes, unstable joints, herniated disc, and poor postures all trigger back pain. There are many ways to treat low back pain or make it milder. In most cases, cramping during early pregnancy is a regular thing. However, in the second trimester, as the uterus expands, a round ligament that supports uterus is widely stretched and cause sharp back pain during pregnancy. Additional cramping is also caused by constipation, gas, and bloating. Minor cramping can be prevented with exercising, soaking in warm water, drinking plenty of water, and a heating pad.

Can you use a heating pad while pregnant?

The heating pad pregnancy-related back pain therapy is one of the non-medical back pain treatments. Using a heating pad while pregnant can come very handy, as it soothes mid back pain during pregnancy. The heat relaxes all stiff muscles and joints surrounding back which causes compression and lower back inflammation. However, for any extreme back pain during pregnancy which is related to a herniated disc or other reasons, it is highly suggested to contact a doctor right away.

When to consult a doctor for back pain in pregnancy?
  • When back pain is caused by trauma accompanied by fever, burning sensation, and vaginal bleeding.
  • feeling weak in one or both legs and losing consciousness in your genital area, bladder, and buttocks.
  • Right side back pain during pregnancy just under the ribs, can be a sign of kidney infection, which is followed by nausea, fever, and blood in urine.
  • Lower left, and lower right back pain during pregnancy occurs in the event of urinary infection in pregnancy or kidney infections. Untreated kidney infections during pregnancy can cause premature labor, and therefore, it is important to see a doctor as soon as the symptoms occur.
  • for any severe lower back pain during pregnancy

6. References

Back Pain in Pregnancy

Pregnancy Back Pain Remedies

Posterior Pelvic Pain in Pregnant Women