Back Pain During Pregnancy- Causes, Tips and Exercises

Pregnancy is a time for many bodily changes, so if you are experiencing neck and back pain during pregnancy you are probably not surprised. In fact, over half of all pregnant women experience these symptoms. The peak time to feel back pain during a pregnancy is closer to the date of birth as the strain of carrying a growing baby increases. Many bodily functions take place that contribute to your back pain, and there are several ways to keep it under control.

Causes of Back Pain in Pregnancy

Between 50 and 70 percent of pregnant women feel back pain as a result of their pregnancy. Those most at risk are women who were overweight or who experienced back pain prior to becoming pregnant. The back pain most typically associated with pregnancy is lower back pain, or where the pelvis meets the spine at the sacroiliac joint. Here we examine the different bodily functions that contribute to this pain at this unique stage.

Weight gain: A healthy pregnancy is usually the culprit of 25-35 pounds worth of weight gain. This is new weight that the spine is not used to supporting. The weight of the growing baby and uterus also strains the blood vessels and nerves in this area.

Hormones: During pregnancy, the hormones in your body are going haywire, including one that’s new to the scene: Relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone that relaxes the ligaments in your pelvic area and loosens the joints in that region to prepare for the birthing process. This hormone can also cause ligaments that support the spine to loosen, causing lower back pain.

Change in posture: When your pregnancy becomes more advanced, you experience a shift in your center of gravity. This is not an immediate process but rather happens gradually to the point that you probably don’t even notice it happening. You slowly start to adjust your posture and your movements as a result in a way that can hurt your back.

Stress: While pregnancy can be an exciting time in your life, it’s also stressful both physically and emotionally. Emotional stress can cause muscle tension in your back that can be expressed as spasms or pain.

Minimizing Back Pain During Pregnancy

If you’ve never had back pain before pregnancy, the pain you are in right now is likely going to decrease gradually before giving birth and should disappear afterward. In the meantime, there are some ways to diminish it.

• Stress management via meditation
• Exercise in ways that support and strengthen the back/abdomen
• Squat to pick something up rather than bending over
• Avoid walking in high heeled shoes or shoes that do not support your back
• Sleep on your side with a support pillow under your knees
• Wear a maternity support belt
• Use a lumbar support pillow while sitting down and improve your posture
• Elevate your feet
• And get plenty of rest

Exercises for Back Pain During Pregnancy

Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, biking, and even swimming are great to strengthen muscles and boost flexibility. Swimming and prenatal water aerobics are particularly effective since water supports your weight, relieving the pressure from your back.

Strengthening exercises include:
• Pelvic Tilts/Pelvic Rocking
• Arm and Leg Raises
• Kegels
• Wall Squats
• Back Press
• Overhead Pulldown
• Upright Row
• Lower Back Extensions

• Back Stretches
• Side Stretches
• Hamstring Stretches
• Chest Stretches
• Neck Stretches

Prenatal Yoga Poses
• Extended Side Angle Pose
• Triangle Pose
• Sitting Side Stretch
• Angry Cat Stretch
• Cat and Cow Pose
• Sitting Side Stretch
• Child Pose
• Bound Angle Pose
• Hero Pose
• Tree Pose
• Warrior I & Warrior II Pose
• Low Lunge Pose
• Goddess Pose
• Full Squat Pose
• Corpse Pose

How To Treat Back Pain During Pregnancy

One the back pain is present it is too late to prevent it. Additional ways to relieve back pain include:

• Applying a cold pack to the affected area for up to 20 minutes several times throughout the day. After two or three days switch to a hot pack such as a heating pad or a hot water bottle.
• Seeking counseling if you are experiencing a lot of emotional stress. Counseling before pregnancy can help to relieve the stress that may be augmenting your back pain.
• Enrolling in prenatal yoga classes
• Asking your doctor for medication that treats inflammation
• Use a licensed health care professional such as a chiropractor to keep your back aligned, relieve nerve stress, and promote healing throughout the body
• Using support devices while you sit and sleep to improve your posture
• Seeking massage therapy

For stubborn pain that just won’t go away, even after your pregnancy, an experienced spine specialist may be able to provide you with further treatment options. Call the Spine Institute today and book an appointment in one of our convenient New Jersey offices.