Back pain is a common complaint for pregnant women worldwide. Pregnancy back pain is one of the manifestations of the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy and it’s usually not a symptom of an underlying disease.
Pregnancy back pain is common at the lumbosacral area as this site is the one which curves during lordosis in pregnancy. Pain also radiates to the thoracic area and even down the thighs.
But what causes this back pain and how do we treat it? The following outlines the causes and management of pregnancy back pain.
Causes of Back Pain During Pregnancy
Pregnancy back pain has several biomechanical causes, which can include:
- Production of maternal hormones. Relaxin is a maternal hormone produced to allow the ligaments in the pelvis to soften in preparation for delivery. Because of this, support to the back is lessened, causeing the lumbar area to bend backward and lead to lordosis.
- Depth of Lordosis. The more the lumbar spine is bent, the more trauma and pressure it is forced to withstand. Pain arises as a result of irritating the pain receptors.
- Fetal position. Certain fetal positions, such as Right Occiput Posterior and Left Occiput Posterior.
- Change in the Center of Gravity. Due to the growing fetus, the center of gravity shifts forward. To make the body stable, the spine compensates by bending backward at the lumbar area giving rise again to lordosis.
- Growing fetus. As the fetus and fetal structures grow, additional weight is supported by the back, which causes additional stress and tension.
Aside from the specific causes, certain aggravating factors tend to increase the risk of having back pain. Standing and sitting for prolonged periods, heavy lifting, bending forward, and poor posture may worsen back pain felt by pregnant women.
Management for Back Pain During Pregnancy
The biomechanical factors that cause back pain are irreversible and typically last until the delivery of the baby. Because of this, the following treatments are focused on supportive management and prevention of the aggravating factors.
- Use maternal supports. Wear supportive pants and belt to provide adequate support to the back. Also use low-heeled or flat shoes to lower the center of gravity. Ensure that shoes or slippers are non-skid to prevent slips.
- Have proper posture. Although lordosis is imminent, keep your shoulders back and stand up as straight as possible.
- Practice proper body mechanics. Bend at the knees and never at the waist when picking things up. Never over reach; instead go near the object. Proper body mechanics prevents undue tension on the musculoskeletal system.
- Sleep on left side lying position. Sleeping flat on the bed allows the fetus and other uterine structures to compress the spine and vena cava leading to back pain.
- Perform adequate non-impact exercises. For example, try pelvic rocking to relax the back muscles.
- Have back massages and apply warm and cold compresses. Massage (specifically effleurage) relaxes the muscles to help provide relief. Alternating warm and cold packs also reduces muscle tension.
These are some of the proven measures to reduce back pain during pregnancy, but it is still best to consult a physician. Dr. Mohr has treated many women who have experienced back pain during pregnancy. If you would like to discuss your symptoms please call our office or book your appointment here.