With up to 75 percent of all pregnant women experiencing back pain at some point in their pregnancy, many want to understand why this happens and how to make it better. Back pain can leave you sore, short on sleep, and unable to enjoy your normal daily activities. Luckily, a few interventions may help.
A few things can be the culprit when it comes to low back pain. The most obvious tends to be the weight gain that is a normal part of pregnancy. If you gain an excessive amount of weight or put it on very quickly, however, you may be more prone to a sore back. Therefore, following your doctor’s or midwife’s guidelines about how much to gain may help you avoid this. Even so, many women who gain completely on track will still notice some pain, so take comfort in knowing you are in good company!
A few other things make pregnant women prone to back aches and pains. With your growing uterus comes a change in your center of gravity, and this puts a new type of strain on your back. The hormones of pregnancy also make your joints looser, which means joints and bones can shift position a bit, resulting in back pain. Activities that were once simple, like picking something up off of the floor or getting out of bed, may trigger a muscle spasm or sharp pain thanks to these changes in your body.
The bad news is that back pain usually worsens the farther along you get in your pregnancy. However, the good news is that you don’t have to just grin and bear it. More than likely you’ve heard of a bunch of tricks to try to relieve your symptoms. The following are some interventions that might be worth using:
- Exercise. Yes, you might think this will make your pain worse, and while you might be more sore for a day or two, we have good evidence that exercise actually improves back pain both in pregnant and non-pregnant women. Strong muscles are better able to support your joints, and the act of exercising keeps them stretched and flexible too. Include varied exercises like cardio, yoga, and swimming to get maximum benefit.
- Keep good posture. Listen to your mother, and stand up straight! A belly band or pelvic belt, or chair positioners if you sit for most of the day, can all help too.
- Acupuncture. There is actually good quality evidence that acupuncture can help pregnancy-related back pain. Make sure you go to someone experienced with pregnant women.
- Get good sleep. This can mean using a body support pillow to keep your back in good alignment.
- Consider chiropractic care, but don’t expect much. The evidence is not actually that great for improving back pain in pregnancy. You can give it a shot, but if you are worried about cost or safety, feel free to skip it.
- Massage. Because prenatal massages can make everything better!
- Pain relievers: Tylenol (acetaminophen) is safe and may help muscle inflammation. Using a heating pad or ice can bring relief too.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020
- Up to 75 percent of pregnant women experience back pain in their pregnancy.
- Weight gain, a growing uterus, and loose joints can all contribute to back pain.
- There are plenty of things to try to alleviate your pain that are all safe for you and your baby.