Back Pain: Pregnancy and Back Pain

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Back Pain in Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Back pain in pregnancy can be a problem for a lot of women due to the addition of weight, the shifting centre of gravity and the ligament-loosening hormones that take effect during pregnancy. Sciatica is also sometimes experienced during pregnancy. About 50 to 70% of pregnant women will experience low back pain. If the pain is continuous, it generally continues into the postpartum phase. 

Causes of Back Pain in Pregnancy 

When you’re pregnant, the hormone relaxin changes a lot of your joint stability, flexibility, and centre of gravity. As your baby grows, you’ll start to lean forward more. As a result, you start to lean back. That increases the lordosis in your lumbar spine, which creates more compression in the lumbar spine. Another cause of back pain in pregnancy is malignment of the pelvis. Other causes include:

  • The relaxing of ligaments in preparation for childbirth
  • Pressure on the sciatic nerve
  • Strain on the muscles that support the spine

Women may also develop pubic symphysitis in their second trimester. It’s due to the shearing forces that are created due to the lack of stability you have. This lack of stability is caused by the increased relaxin in your body. Common symptoms of pubic symphysitis are groin and pelvic pain and low back pain. Pain may be worse when you’re doing things like walking up and down stairs, getting in and out of the car or exercising.

Symptoms of Back Pain in Pregnancy

If you develop back pain in pregnancy, you may experience symptoms like:

  • Lumbar pain (lower back pain)
  • Pelvic girdle pain
  • Shooting or radiating pain in the buttocks and legs
  • Joint pain

How Exercise Can Help Back Pain in Pregnancy

Exercise can help you manage back pain symptoms. Before you start an exercise program, talk to your family doctor, obstetrician or physiotherapist. Certain conditions may restrict the exercise you can do, like vaginal bleeding or placenta previa. Here are some popular types of pregnancy exercise.

  • Prenatal yoga and Pilates
  • Swimming
  • Stretching
  • Walking 

As you enter your second and third trimester, your health care provider can advise you on safe types of prenatal exercise. 

Treatment for Back Pain in Pregnancy

Some women find relief from back pain by seeing a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist who treats pregnant women can address the musculoskeletal and biomechanical changes that occur during pregnancy. Seeing a physiotherapist during pregnancy can help you reduce back pain, prepare your body for labor and recover after birth.

Some of the ways a physiotherapist can help you during pregnancy include:

  • Providing exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve posture
  • Enhancing core stability to help you maintain your center of gravity
  • Sharing breathing exercises that can help you reduce stress and pain during labour
  • Pelvic floor rehabilitation techniques to promote better bladder and bowel control, and optimize the flexibility of the pelvic floor muscles.

If you’d like more information on back pain in pregnancy, talk to your doctor, obstetrician or physiotherapist.

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