Never in a woman’s life does her body go through as many profound changes as it does during pregnancy. While each woman and each gestation is different there are symptoms common to the condition but not well understood by sufferers.
It's one of the most frequently reported issues starting in early pregnancy, sometimes before a woman is even aware of her condition are lower back pain.
It is estimated that as many as 50% of all pregnant woman experience back pain. There are several reasons for this, most significantly the fact that a woman’s body chemistry is greatly changed once pregnancy is attained.
Causes of Back Pain During Pregnancy
Hormones are released that prepare the body for the transformations to come. The most exceptional of these changes is the strains that are placed upon muscles, ligaments and skeletal structure due to the growing baby. Hormones affect these structures by allowing for greater muscular expansion and ligament growth, and even softening of bones to make them more pliable.
Another significant factor is that being pregnant causes a woman’s center of gravity to shift forward significantly as the baby grows. The lower back must curve significantly to accommodate the shift and an expanding uterus puts pressure on the spinal column and its nerve roots.
Added to all of the structural changes is the simple fact that as the fetus develops, finding a comfortable sleeping position can become near impossible, without adequate, restful slumber, muscles already under stress do not have a chance to recover from the stresses of the day.
While some discomfort is probably inescapable, there is much a woman can do to relieve and prevent lower back pain. One of the most vital methods is to get adequate exercise and not yield to the temptation to become less active due to discomfort. A doctor should always be consulted prior to the adoption of any exercise program, and in deference to the structural changes in the musculo-skeletal system; any new activities should be gentle, moderate and low impact. An added benefit to maintaining and strengthening muscles and ligaments during pregnancy is that good overall muscle tone helps make delivery easier!
Ways to Lower Back Pain While Pregnant
- Good posture—which is easier to maintain with good muscle tone, is another key to easing lower back pain. When sitting a pregnant woman should always be mindful of body positioning and choose chairs with good support. Elevating the feet on a stool is recommended; keeping both feet flat on the floor or stool and avoiding crossing legs will also help maintain good back health.
- Lifting, while not strictly forbidden during pregnancy as in yesteryear, should still be kept moderate. Avoid lifting heavy loads and follow proper stabilization techniques (wide stance, lifting with arms and knees -- not back). Weight gain should be monitored carefully as increased body weight puts strain on muscles.
- A very simple preventative measure for lower back discomfort is avoiding high heels. Opt instead for comfortable shoes with no more than a two inch heel to keep the spine in alignment.
- A firm mattress is essential during pregnancy, and comfortable body positioning is greatly enhanced when a body pillow (minimum of five foot length recommended) is also utilized.
- To ease the inevitable and unavoidable pain so common in the first trimester, there are many non-drug options to consider. Warm baths are soothing, showers utilizing pulsating showerheads can be equally so. Another effective method of pain relief is applying alternating warm and cool compresses at fifteen minute intervals.
- Massage is another viable option, but it is vital that the expectant mother inform the masseuse of her pregnancy and if at all possible patronize massage practitioners with specific training in prenatal massage. Pre-natal yoga classes may also provide relief and have the added benefit of helping to ease anxiety, a very common mental state during pregnancy, and provide mindful relaxation to overburdened muscles.
- Frequent breaks –whether from activity or even from standing or sitting are essential—aim to change body positions at least once an hour and engage in gentle stretching movements at least as often. If standing for long periods cannot be avoided, placing one foot on a stool alternately can provide relief from strain on the spine and hips.