Treating Pregnancy Back Pain

It is generally believed that anywhere from fifty to seventy percent of women will experience back pain at some point during their pregnancy. The duration and severity will vary from one woman to the next, but in general back pain tends to increase as your due date nears, in part because of the additional weight your back is forced to support.

Women who are overweight to start with or who have had back problems in the past run a greater risk of experiencing pregnancy-related back pain. However, weight increase is just one of many factors that can lead to pregnancy back pain. Hormone increases that occur during pregnancy can cause joints to shift and loosen, which may lead to a change in your back support. Pregnancy also throws off your center of gravity, which can lead to poor posture, a well-known source of back pain.

Generally, back pain is not a major cause of concern for pregnant women, but persistent back pain and discomfort can most certainly be disruptive and physically draining. Pregnant women who experience significant back pain may have trouble completing daily tasks and getting a restful night’s sleep. Increasingly severe or abrupt back pain can be a sign of more serious problems, such as pregnancy-associated osteoporosis or septic arthritis. If you are experiencing severe back pain, visit your health care provider in order to rule out any of these conditions.

While experiencing some back pain is virtually unavoidable for many pregnant women, there are several steps that you can take to help ease your discomfort and decrease the degree to which it disrupts your daily life.

1. Kick up your heels. Standing for long periods of time is not recommended for pregnant women as it can trigger and aggravate back pain. If your occupation requires you to be on your feet for extended periods of time, you may need to take maternity leave earlier in your pregnancy than would someone who sits at a desk all day. If you must be on your feet, make sure that you are taking adequate breaks to rest. What you wear on your feet matters as well. It’s time to trade in your heels for a sturdier pair of shoes that will give you the support that you need.

2. Don’t bend over backwards. The action of bending over is hard on a pregnant woman’s back. Avoid bending over to tie your shoes or pick something up. Squat instead or ask someone for assistance.

3. Chill out. Stress, as we all know, is a major contributor to many different health problems, including back pain. So find healthy ways to deal with stress, such as meditation, journaling or breathing exercises.

4. Sleep it off. Getting plenty of rest is important for pregnant women, but try to avoid sleeping on your back. Laying on your side with a pillow under your legs is recommended to ease and prevent back pain as is elevating your feet while sleeping or watching TV.

5. What’s up Doc? Consider visiting a chiropractor to ensure that your back is properly aligned and also to help improve your posture, which will relieve some of the stress that your body is putting on your back. Chiropractors, as well as your general health care provider should be able to provide braces and other supportive devices as well as recommend exercises that improve posture and strengthen the muscles of the back and abdomen. Keep in mind that many health insurance plans now cover chiropractic care.

6. Just say “no”. Certain drugs, even over-the-counter pain pills can be harmful to a growing baby. Consult with your doctor before taking any pain medications, even in small doses.

7. Take a “hands on” approach. Many health care providers and spas offer special pregnancy massages, which can help to ease many of the aches and pains that plague pregnant women. Typically, they will provide special pillows that allow you to comfortably lie on your stomach for the majority of the massage and special techniques are used that have been proven safe and effective for pregnant women. Any husbands out there reading this, a pregnancy massage is a great gift for a wife who could use some pampering and pain relief.

If you’ve taken all of these preventative measures and you are still experiencing back pain, there are also several things that you can do to help ease your discomfort, including applying ice or heat or taking medications to treat inflammation, a major cause of back discomfort. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and they can help you come up with a customized treatment plan according to your individual situation.

Remember that when you are pregnant taking care of yourself also means taking care of your baby. Some women who are used to hectic lifestyles have a hard time slowing down and giving up some control and responsibility in order to give themselves the rest and relaxation that they need. Resist the urge to try to do it all you’ll have plenty of time for that after the baby is born!