Pregnancy and back pain: causes and solutions

back pain

Back pain affects 50% of pregnant women, and for 10% of them, it affects their daily activities. Back pain usually appears between the 5th and 7th month of pregnancy. Most of the pain is in the lower back and the back of the pelvis. It is important to take care of yourself if you are experiencing back pain. 

What causes back pain?  

The cause is essentially the pregnant woman’s weight gain. The average healthy weight gain is 14 kg. The weight of the belly increases considerably towards the end of the 2nd trimester of pregnancy. This shifts the woman’s center of gravity and she will tend to compensate by bending her back backwards. The abdominal muscles stretch and are not able to stabilize the posture effectively. This extra weight puts pressure on the back, hips, knees and ankles. 

In addition, pregnancy hormones, such as relaxin, increase tenfold during the third trimester and increase the flexibility of the joints. The purpose of relaxin is to help the pelvis adapt to the uterus. However, this has the effect of increasing back pain since the muscles of the back and pelvis are more solicited to allow the pregnant woman to keep her balance. 

Will the pain stay until after the birth?

Fortunately, this is not the case! There are several ways to get rid of or reduce back pain for pregnant women. 

Chiropractic care can help reduce back and pelvic pain while improving body function. The chiropractor may also recommend postural exercises and stretching to prepare the body for childbirth. 

 How to reduce the risk of back pain?

back pain

The key to avoiding back pain is a good posture, pregnant or not. When standing, make sure your back is straight, shoulders back, chest up and knees bent. Make sure you distribute your weight evenly on both legs.

If possible, twice a day for about 15 minutes, lie on your side with your knees bent and a pillow between your legs. This reduces the strain on your back.

Here are some tips for your daily life: 

  • Rest, that’s definitely the first thing to do;
  • When sitting, have a good support for your back, add a pillow or a cushion if necessary in the hollow of your back;
  • Sleep on your left side with a pillow between your knees, this will reduce the pressure of the uterus on the large blood vessels and improve blood circulation. The pillow will reduce the strain on your lower back. If you sleep on your back, you can place the pillow under your knees;
  • Wear good shoes with good support;
  • If you are standing and have to turn, rotate your feet instead of your back;
  • When picking something up off the ground, bend your legs to keep your back straight. Avoid leaning forward;
  • To strengthen the stabilizing muscles, physical activity is recommended. Consult a health care professional before starting a new exercise program;

In short, take your time to move! No sudden movements that involve your back. Learn to ask for help; it will benefit you even after the baby is with you.

How to reduce the pain in your back? 

There are several health care professionals who can help pregnant women with back pain. The chiropractor is one of them.

Chiropractic care contributes to the optimal functioning of the body. The spinal structures are better prepared for the rapid weight gain and the forward shift of the center of gravity. According to the American Pregnancy Association, when the pelvic bones are misaligned, the space for the baby’s development may be reduced. This restriction is called intrauterine constraint.

The baby’s growth, which requires more space each day, invites the mother’s sacrum to move backward. If the sacrum is unable to move backwards because it is poorly positioned, the risk of intrauterine stress is increased. When the sacrum moves backward to make room, it can cause more stress on the sacroiliac joint, especially when its position is not ideal. This often results in back pain and sciatica.

Chiropractic adjustments ease this transition and ensure optimal movement and positioning of the sacrum, reducing the risk of pain, promoting maximum development of the baby, and facilitating a smoother natural vaginal birth.

Applying cold or heat may help. A nice warm bath may help reduce pain. Taping can also provide relief and support for pregnant women in the early months of pregnancy. Massages can also help a lot.

Some pregnant women use a support belt to help support the weight of the baby and thus reduce the pressure on the pelvis. You can discuss this with your chiropractor or doctor to see if this is an option for you. 

What exercises can do a pregnant women with back pain?  

The most important thing is to remain active, unless otherwise advised by your doctor. However, some adaptations may be necessary if pain occurs.

There are exercises to improve flexibility, balance and muscle relaxation. This prevents back pain for pregnant women. Here are some examples of exercises to do at home: 

  • On all fours on the floor, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders, keep your back straight while contracting your abdominal muscles. Round your back and hold this position for a few seconds. Release, then repeat 10 times. Don’t dig into your back!
  • Lie on your back, it should stick to the ground. Bend your knees, keeping your feet slightly apart on the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles and hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  • In a sitting position, place your right foot on your left knee. Slowly, keeping your back straight, bend your trunk forward. You should feel a stretch in your left buttock and leg. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Then do the same exercise with your legs reversed. 

It is also possible for the pregnant woman suffering from back pain to do sports. Regular physical activity helps relieve back pain. It is suggested to do about 30 minutes of exercise per day, 5 days a week. 

What sports are recommended?

back pain pregnancy

Swimming and aquafitness or any activity in water are recommended since the water reduces the weight that the body must support. Next, yoga and other prenatal classes are recommended as they work the stabilizing muscles and help reduce back pain for pregnant women. 

Finally, walking and stationary cycling are also favourable during pregnancy. 

It is important to keep in mind that the goal of physical activity during pregnancy is not to outdo yourself, but to stay active and find a way to reduce or avoid pain. 

What about manual therapy to reduce back pain for pregnant women?

Several studies show that manual therapies are effective. In fact, pregnant women who received chiropractic care in a study of 170 Canadian women reported less back pain and less pain during pregnancy and childbirth. 

So, if you are suffering from back pain while pregnant, a chiropractor’s intervention could help you. During the first appointment, the chiropractor will perform a complete evaluation of your condition in order to identify the cause of your pain. 

back pain

Did you know that ?

Studies have shown that the labor time during childbirth was much shorter for women who received chiropractic care. The delivery would also be less painful and the healing process after the delivery would be accelerated.

Dr. Patrick Gaudreau, chiropractor

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