Back Pain during Pregnancy

Back Pain During Pregnancy — What It Is

Backache — with soreness, stiffness, and pain — is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms. And, unfortunately, backache often starts early on in your pregnancy and persists (or worsens) until you give birth (when Pregnancy Backache is replaced by Postpartum Back Pain).

Back Pain During Pregnancy — What Causes It

As your belly gets bigger throughout your pregnancy, your lower back curves more than usual to accommodate the load, resulting in strained muscles and, you guessed it, pain. In addition, your growing uterus shifts your center of gravity forward, putting even more pressure on your lower back. Add to the mix a hormone called relaxin, which causes your ligaments to stretch and joints to loosen, and you’ve got one aching back.

Back Pain During Pregnancy — What You Need to Know About It

The good news about backache during pregnancy is that it’s as curable as it is common. There are many ways to relieve it, so if one solution doesn’t work, another probably will.

Back Pain During Pregnancy — What You Can Do About It

  • Watch your posture when you’re sitting, which puts more strain on your spine than anything else. At home and at work, make sure the chairs you use most provide good support, preferably with a straight back, arms, and a firm cushion. Use a footrest to elevate your feet slightly, and don’t cross your legs; that can cause your pelvis to tilt forward, exacerbating those strained back muscles.
  • Take breaks by walking or standing and stretching at least once an hour. Sitting too long can make your back hurt even more.
  • Try not to stand too long, either. If you work on your feet, try to place one foot on a low stool to take some pressure off your lower back.
  • Avoid lifting heavy loads, but if you must, do it slowly. Stabilize yourself by assuming a wide stance; bend at the knees, not at the waist; and lift with your arms and legs, not your back.
  • Keep your weight gain where it should be (extra weight is extra hard on any back).
  • Wear the right shoes — and leave the Manolos for Carrie Bradshaw. Extremely high heels are out — as are completely flat ones. Experts recommend a 2-inch heel to keep your body in proper alignment. You might also consider orthotics, orthopedic shoe inserts designed for muscle support.
  • Make sure your mattress is firm. If not, place a board underneath for the duration. A body pillow (at least 5 feet long) can also help you find stress-minimizing sleeping positions.
  • Consider a crisscross support sling designed specifically for a pregnant figure, which will help take the burden of your belly’s weight off your lower back.
  • No reaching for the stars — or the cookies on the top shelf. Use a low, stable, step stool to get items from high places and you’ll avoid additional strain. (Better still, leave the cookies where they are.)
  • Think good thoughts. A calm mind leads to a looser back. You can also try some yoga, which will relax both your mind and your back.
  • Do pelvic tilts to strengthen your abs.
  • Soothe sore muscles by applying cold compresses, then warm compresses in 15-minute intervals.
  • Take a warm bath (ask your partner to draw it for you). Or turn the shower head to pulsating and enjoy the back massage.
  • Talking about massages, go get one (after the first trimester and with a masseuse who knows you’re pregnant and is trained in the art of prenatal massage).
  • If pain is significant, ask your practitioner about physical therapists, alternative medicine specialists (such as acupuncturists), or chiropractors who might be able to help.

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