Back pain and pregnancy! Yes! No two words go together better because pain in the back invariably accompanies pregnancy. But why is it that the majority of pregnant women will have back ache as a nearly daily complaint? And, more importantly, what can you do about it? Let’s find out….
Low back pain is commonest, but it may be accompanied by discomfort in your upper back, shoulders, between your breasts and in your ribcage. Some women suffer from sciatica, a sharp shooting pain down one or both legs. In a few women, symphysis pubis discomfort (pelvic pain) occurs as well.
Why it happens?
- Pregnancy is a phase of hormones. Hormone production during pregnancy makes joints less stable (to allow the pelvis to spread as the baby grows). One of these hormones is called Relaxin which is very helpful for birth. Relaxin causes the ligaments and the pelvis to soften to allow the baby out through the pelvis which increases the stresses in the back.
- Typical weight gain of 25-35 pounds during pregnancy, with the majority or extra weight distributed around the abdomen.
- In addition the pelvis relaxing for the upcoming event of birth, the growing uterus changes the centre of gravity pushing it forwards. So with the baby bump moving forward there is a greater strain in the back.
- Apart from all this the overstretched abdominal muscles are also not equipped to support the weight of the uterus and so the back muscles have to bear the extra burden as well.
- Increase in postural strain as the body compensates for changes in the pregnant woman’s center of gravity.
- Bad posture is another cause.
What can one do?
But you don’t have to bear it. Back pain in pregnancy can be treated and prevented effectively. And here are a few tips that can help.
- Try to use your body more efficiently.
- Stand up straight and tall, ensuring your chin isn’t tilting upwards.
- Avoid standing for too long in one position. If your job involves standing for long periods, keep changing from one foot to the other, sit down when you can and take a walk at lunchtime.
- Maternity pillows it may help to sleep on your side with a wedge-shaped pillow under your tummy. In bed, use plenty of pillows for support; keep your thighs parallel to prevent your top leg twisting across your body.
- When getting out of bed, roll onto one side, push yourself up to a sitting position, and then slowly stand up.
- Heat, water or warm bath, hot pack can ease discomfort.
- Don’t carry heavy shopping or ask a friend to help you.
- Avoid carrying a baby or toddler on one hip, as this puts great strain on the back.
- Ask for help with housework and chores.
- Wear comfortable shoes with broad supporting heels and adequate straps to prevent your feet from slipping about and twisting your ankles. Wear a well-fitting supportive maternity outfit.
- At work, you could ask your employer for a lumbar support or an orthopaedic chair, and avoid crossing your legs.
- Check the position of your computer screen and mouse and adapt these if necessary; leave your desk regularly to move about and get some exercise and fresh air at lunchtime.
Apart from these there a few more that can be done:
- Practice good posture.
- Sit and stand with care.
- Sleep on your side.
- Lift properly.
- Try heat, cold or a back rub.
- Stay fit.
- Try pelvic tilt exercises.
- Join Prenatal physiotherapy sessions
- If you start getting back pain consult immediately and do not bear it
Posture and Pregnancy: You are likely to adopt different position now than you did before you were pregnant. Did you know that standing, sitting, or lying in certain ways can lead to back pain – because of change on centre of body gravity? To ease pain, use positions that support your body – especially abdomen – comfortably. Tips for Good Posture (Adopted from Mount Nittany Medical Centre)
Using good posture means holding yourself so that your spine is aligned and your muscles can work without strain. To use good posture:
- Raise your chest and head. Try to keep your ears lined up over your shoulders.
- Use your abdominal muscles to pull in your abdomen. This reduces the amount of weight your back must support.
- Keep your pelvis level. Think of your pelvis as a bowl of water that will spill if it tips too far forward or backward.
If you must stand for long periods, try to change positions every 15 minutes. This gives your muscles a break. When standing, also:
- Keep your legs slightly apart. This helps you balance your weight.
- Rest one foot on a book, ledge, or low stool. Every few minutes, switch legs.
- Wear comfortable shoes with padded soles and arch support, such as athletic shoes.
When sitting in a chair or car, make sure your spine’s lumbar curve is supported. Use a chair with lumbar support built in, or put a firm pillow against your lower back. Also try the following:
- Sit with your knees slightly lower than your hips. Don’t cross your legs.
- Take deep breaths often. This helps keep your spine and abdomen in the best position.
- Vary your activity each hour. For instance, get up from your desk and take a 5-minute walk around the office.
To lie safely and comfortably:
- Lie on your side with your knees slightly bent. This takes pressure off the uterus and improves blood flow to your baby.
- Place pillows under your abdomen and between your knees.
- To get out of bed, roll onto your side. Use your arms to push yourself into a seated position. Scoot to the edge of the bed and place your feet on the floor. Lean forward, then use your leg muscles to stand.
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