During your pregnancy your body weight will increase and the size of your stomach will extend often forcing you to stand, walk, sit or lie in different positions to those you would normally adopt. Your lumbar arch may become more pronounced and your posture will change because of this.
These subtle postural changes are essential in order to maintain balance and to also protect your back and pelvic joints, but can cause crippling or niggling pregnancy back pain as a result.
It is possible for a woman to gain as much as a quarter of her body weight during pregnancy, adding extra stress to the back, hips, knees and ankles. The larger your baby and the bigger you get then the greater the risk of suffering from pregnancy back pain.
There are basically two types of pregnancy back pain generally associated with pregnant mums, which are lumbar back pain and pelvic pain.
Lumbar Back Pain
Lumbar back pain is generally felt in the mid to lower back area at or above the waist in the centre of the back. This can be caused by changes in posture or body shape, bad lifting technique, weak muscles or unstable ligaments and joints.
This pregnancy back pain usually gets more pronounced at the end of each day or after periods of sitting, standing or walking due to the muscles becoming weaker and not providing the same amount of support.
The second source of pregnancy back pain or more specifically pelvic pain is called pelvic girdle pain (PGP). Pelvic girdle pain is a deep pain felt below and to the side of the waistline, on either side across the tailbone (sacrum). This type of pain can be felt on one or both sides, with the discomfort extending down into the buttocks and the top of the thighs. This type of pain doesn't go away with rest and there will usually be stiffness and discomfort in the mornings.
The following activities can cause a worsening of pelvic girdle pain, so as much as possible try to limit or avoid doing them altogether.
Rolling or moving around excessively in bed, lifting, twisting, bending forwards, climbing stairs too regularly, getting up from sitting to standing, such as getting in and out of a car, the bath or bed etc
Some women may also suffer from sciatica during pregnancy, where inflammation or pressure from the back causes the sciatic nerve to become painful and inflamed. This can weaken the back muscles or cause pins and needles. Sciatica can be present with or without pregnancy back pain and often sufferers will notice a shooting pain running down the back of the leg.
The muscles of the core support and protect the spine and internal organs, to stabilize and move the joints of the back and pelvis. As your uterus and baby grow, the separation between the stomach muscles makes it much harder to provide this support.
Pregnancy related hormones such as relaxin and oestrogen allow ligaments and tendons to become more flexible than normal, leaving the lower back and pelvis more susceptible to injury. These hormonal changes, along with additional weight gain and changes in the centre of balance all add to the possibility of injury and pregnancy back pain.
How To Alleviate Pregnancy Back Pain
There are many ways that you can get relief from pregnancy back pain. Here are some of the best ideas: -
Strengthen the Muscles
Pelvic tilting exercises will help to support your spine and improve your posture thereby reducing the strain on your spine and pelvis.
Massaging the lower back area can usually help tired, aching muscles.
By using pillows in bed or when sitting down to create a comfortable position you may be able to reduce the pain you feel. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs may also help. If you are suffering discomfort around the base of your spine (coccyx), try sitting on a soft cushion or a cushioned ring to reduce the pressure on that area.
Heat and Water
A heat pack, hot bath or a shower can all help to reduce the pain.
Bend Down Cautiously
When bending down make sure you stand with your feet wide apart. Tilt the pelvis and bend the knees, keeping the back straight. Hold your tummy muscles in all the time. Try to keep your knees in line with your ankles and use your leg muscles to do the work, not the muscles of the lower back.
When lifting, stand as above but try to keep the object you are lifting close to your body and avoid lifting any heavy items.
When carrying shopping distribute your weight evenly between both sides so as to avoid leaning and stand tall with your stomach muscles pulled in and shoulders back.
Back pain is a very common side effect of pregnancy, but the pain normally disappears after a few weeks of having your baby unless there are other underlying causes.
Estimates suggest that between 50% – 80% of pregnant women suffer from one type of pregnancy back pain or another and whilst not as common, some of these women will go on to experience this pregnancy pain for many months or even years after giving birth, unless some action is taken.