Lower back pain is thought to affect anywhere between 50-80% of pregnant women. This can be put down to numerous things, including a growing uterus and/or hormone changes.
It can present itself in any stage of pregnancy, but most commonly initiates during the late 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy. There is a chance this discomfort can persist after baby has arrived, but typically post-partum back pain resolves within a few months.
What could be causing my lower back pain during pregnancy?
There can be several causes of lower back pain:
- A growing uterus- As your uterus expands, it shifts your centre of gravity and also stretches out (and weakens) your abdominal muscles, affecting your posture and putting strain on your back. It may also cause back pain if it’s pressing on a nerve.
- Changing posture- the extra weight you’re carrying means more work for your muscles to keep your centre of gravity balanced and increased stress on your joints, which is why your back may feel worse at the end of the day.
- Hormonal changes- Hormonal changes in pregnancy loosen your joints and relax the ligaments that attach your pelvic bones to your spine. This can make you feel less stable and cause pain when you walk, stand, sit for long periods or roll over in bed.
Who is most likely to have lower back pain during pregnancy?
Anyone can suffer from Lower back pain during pregnancy, but you may be higher risk if:
- You’ve had this kind of pain before, either before you got pregnant or during a previous pregnancy
- You have a sedentary lifestyle
- You have weak back and weak abdominal muscles
- You are carrying twins (or more)
- You have a high BMI (body mass index)
Avoiding and easing back pain in pregnancy:
Most of these tips are about being mindful of your posture and changing habits:
- Make sure your knees are bent and your back is straight when lifting/ bending to the floor
- Avoid lifting heavy objects
- Divide the weight of whatever you are carrying- for example, is carrying shopping bags, make sure they are all similar weight but spread between both hands
- Move your feet when turning to avoid putting the load/ twisting motion through the spine
- Wear flat, but supportive shoes to distribute the pressure
- Keep the back straight and supported when sitting- if sitting on a recliner make sure you have support under the knees with a pillow/ cushion to decrease the spine and pelvis
- Sleep with a pillow between the knees to keep the pelvis aligned and to avoid additional pressure on the hips
- Listen to your body and take rest when needed
- Use plenty of warmth to help relieve the muscles- take hot baths/ showers to loosen the muscles
- Practice pelvic floor exercises from early pregnancy to strengthen the pelvis in preparation for labour
- Swimming is a great exercise during pregnancy as it strengthens the abdominal and lower back muscles without the load of weight-bearing
Should pain persist physical therapy can often be of benefit to expectant mothers. Physiotherapy and Osteopathy are both therapies which would work to restore balance through the muscles and joints being overloaded during pregnancy. Often physical therapy can help the body adapt a little easier to the drastic changes the body is making, and you may also be given a few more specific exercises to help stretch/ loosen the areas of the body working too hard.