What Causes Spine Pain During Pregnancy
The cause of pregnancy-related back pain is likely related to a combination of mechanical, metabolic, circulatory, and psychosocial contributing factors. However, most of the causes can be grouped into the following areas:
- Weight gain: Women typically gain between 20 and 40 pounds throughout pregnancy, which puts additional pressure on the spine. This added pressure may result in lower back pain.
- Shift in center of gravity: As you gain weight and your belly grows, your ability to maintain proper posture becomes challenged. Posture changes from pregnancy have been connected to lordosis and , which may contribute to low back pain.
- Hormonal changes: While most women start experiencing back pain between during the fifth and seventh months, some report back pain in the first trimester. Since the baby isnt large enough to cause any physical stress to the spine, it may be hormonal changes causing pain. Pregnant women produce relaxin, a hormone that relaxes spinal and pelvic ligaments and joints to facilitate childbirth. Relaxin may cause some spinal instability, and this can cause low back pain. In fact, certain hormones produced during pregnancy can cause sacroiliac joint dysfunction, a condition that causes low back pain.
- Increased stress: Pregnancy is an exciting and special time for many women, but it can also be stressful. or even cause it. Finding ways to manage stress during pregnancy may help ease your pain.
Types Of Back Pain In Pregnancy
Pregnant women may experience back pain that is localized to the lower back area or radiates into the buttock, thigh, and legs, causing or mimicking sciatica symptoms. The pain may be constant, get worse with activity, interfere with sleep, and/or reduce overall functioning. While the symptoms usually resolve spontaneously after delivery, some conditions may remain as chronic disorders. Women with pre-existing lower back problems are typically at a higher risk of developing pregnancy-related back pain.
During pregnancy, natural anatomic and postural changes cause mechanical challenges to the musculoskeletal system, especially in the lower body. Back pain and pelvic discomfort commonly start between the fifth and seventh month of being pregnant. A small percentage of women may experience pain as early as 4 to 16 weeks.1
Are These Pregnancy Pain
Other types of pain you should not ignore include sharp stabbing pain that lasts more than a few minutes, burning or painful urination, shoulder pain, and upper right quadrant abdominal pain, generally under the right ribs. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these or other severe pain.
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Frequency And When It Presents
Research shows that around 50% of people who are pregnant will experience low back pain during pregnancy or in the postpartum period. Low back pain during pregnancy can be mild or associated with specific activities. For some people, it can be chronicthat is, pain is persistent and lasts more than three months.
One-third of pregnant people will suffer from severe low back pain that reduces their quality of life, while 10% report that low back pain affects their daily routine and ability to work. For most people, low back pain starts between the fifth and seventh months of pregnancy, but for some, low back pain may occur earlier.
Find The Proper Shoes
You may be a fashion maven who receives regular compliments on your maternity style, but if you’re wearing high-fashion shoes, you’re not doing your back any favors. “High heels increase the curvature of your back and create pressure” that drives the weight of your pregnancy directly into your lower spine and hip joints, Dr. Rosser says. You may also lose your balance and heels cause you to be less stable.
But walking in flats isn’t the answer either, because they leave your feet, which tend to spread during pregnancy because of hormonal changes, unsupported. Poor foot position can manifest itself as imbalance and pain all the way up your legs and back. To get the best support-and to relieve the most pressure-Dr. Rosser advises a low-heeled shoe that is comfortable with either a built-in arch support or an orthotic insertion. The slight rise of the low heel will help distribute the weight that’s on your legs in a more stable and back-supportive way.
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How To Protect Your Back
You can protect your back during pregnancy by avoiding or changing the way you do some things. This becomes more important the further along in your pregnancy you are.
- Avoid heavy lifting. If you have to lift something heavy, bend your knees, keep your back straight and tighten your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. Make sure the object you are lifting stays close to your body. Allow toddlers to climb onto your lap or into the car or bath, and squat down next to them rather than picking them up.
- Always have a good posture. Try to keep your pelvis symmetrical. Stand with your weight evenly on both legs, your back straight and your pelvis tucked under. Avoid standing for a long time. Sit up straight with your bottom at the back of your chair and your feet on a stool if necessary.
- Avoid activities that might hurt your back. These include bending or twisting, climbing ladders, or walking up steep hills.
- Be careful in bed. Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees. To get out of bed, roll onto your side with your knees together. Then use your arms for support as you swing your legs onto the floor.
- Wear shoes with low heels . These have good arch support. Avoid high heels.
- Consider a maternity support belt.
Avoiding And Easing Back Pain In Pregnancy
Try these tips:
- bend your knees and keep your back straight when you lift or pick something up from the floor
- avoid lifting heavy objects
- move your feet when you turn to avoid twisting your spine
- wear flat shoes to evenly distribute your weight
- try to balance the weight between 2 bags when carrying shopping
- keep your back straight and well supported when sitting look for maternity support pillows
- get enough rest, particularly later in pregnancy
- have a massage or a warm bath
- use a mattress that supports you properly you can put a piece of hardboard under a soft mattress to make it firmer, if necessary
- go to a group or individual back care class
You can take paracetamol to ease back pain while you are pregnant, unless your GP or midwife says not to. Always follow the instructions on the packet.
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Lower Back Pain In Pregnancy
Mechanical instability in the lumbar spine and pelvis commonly results in lower back pain in pregnant women.
- The lumbar spine undergoes compensatory lordosisan increase in the reverse C-shaped curvaturewhich causes excess strain on the lumbar joints, muscles, ligaments, and discs.
- The psoas muscle in the hip, which stabilizes the spine and helps in hip and leg movements, is shortened due to the compensatory lordosis, exacerbating the lower back pain symptoms.2
Lower back pain symptoms may start at any time during pregnancy. These symptoms may feel like:
- A dull ache or sharp, burning pain in the lower back area
- One-sided pain in the right or left area of the lower and/or mid-back
- Pain that radiates into the back of the thigh and leg, and sometimes into the foot
- Foot drop, a condition characterized by the inability to lift the front part of the foot while walking
Sciatica symptoms typically occur if a lower lumbar and/or upper sacral nerve root is impinged in the lower spine due to a lumbar herniated disc, spondylolisthesis, facet joint disorder, or muscle sprain and spasm.
Women with a history of back pain, pre-existing lower back disorders, multiple pregnancies, and/or those who are in the younger or older age-groups may be at a higher risk of developing lower back pain in pregnancy.2
Treatment For Early Back Pain During Pregnancy
No matter what stage of your pregnancy youre in, there are ways to treat back pain. You probably wont be able to prevent it completely, but you can help to minimize the pain.
Follow these tips for reducing back pain throughout your pregnancy.
If your back pain seems to be linked to your stress levels, things like meditation, prenatal yoga, and extra rest can all be helpful ways to manage your stress levels.
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Back Pain During Pregnancy
Most pregnant women experience back pain, typically starting in the second half of pregnancy. Most women feel pain in their lower back, in the posterior pelvic region or lower lumbar region.
Posterior pelvic pain is the more common of the two and is a deep pain felt below and at the sides of the waistline, on one or both sides of your buttocks or at the back of your thighs. It can be experienced on one or both sides of your body.
Lumbar pain occurs in the area of the lumbar vertebrae in your lower back, at and above the waist in the center of the back. The pain may radiate to your leg. Lumbar pain during pregnancy feels similar to lower back pain you may have experienced before you were pregnant.
Back pain during pregnancy can range from mild pain caused by specific activities to acute back pain that can become chronic back pain over time. Women with pre-existing lower back problems or chronic pain are at a higher risk for back pain, and their back pain can occur earlier in pregnancy.
Back Pain Is Not Accompanied By Abdominal Tightness
When youre in labor, the uterus is contracting. Though you may feel it in your back, the contractions wrap around from the front. If you are experiencing contractions and back labor, you may notice your belly tightening at regular intervals along with your back pain.
Regular back pain is not accompanied by abdominal tightness.
While these tips may help you distinguish between regular back pain and early labor signs, be advised that once labor progresses, if you experience true back labor it may feel very different. During your period of hard labor as opposed to early labor back pain may not let up like regular contractions, and you may feel a constant pain if you are experiencing back labor .
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Risk Factors For Back Pain During Pregnancy
Back pain is incredibly common, but some risk factors do increase your chance of experiencing it .
Some of these risk factors are:
- Previous experience with back pain before pregnancy.
- Back pain during a previous pregnancy.
- Weak abdominal muscles.
- Pain in the center of the lower back.
- A deep ache in the buttocks.
- Pain that extends through the thighs and legs.
While sharp pains can certainly happen during pregnancy, this type of pain is much less common. Sharp back pain that shoots down the legs can also be related to nerve pain or a more serious condition. It is best to consult your doctor or healthcare provider immediately if you are experiencing sharp pains.
Start Exercising Once Your Body Recovers Completely
Your body will take approximately six weeks to heal itself after the birth of your baby. Once the six weeks are over and if you feel healthy and fine, you can start with some light exercises and yoga to get your body back in shape and to strengthen it. However, do consult your doctor before starting with anything. Start gradually by investing 10 to 15 minutes daily and slowly increase the time and intensity of your workouts. Doing so will help provide relief from lower back pain while breastfeeding.
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Focus On Your Posture
As your uterus expands, the way you stand and walk may change. Your body is naturally accommodating for the shift in your center of gravity and the laxity of your ligaments. At night, you may be most comfortable sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs. Also, your lower back might curve more inward while your pelvis tips forward. To straighten up, work on regularly strengthening your pelvic floor and core muscles.
Strengthen Your Back Muscles
Since your back is at risk, it makes sense to strengthen it. Starting early in your pregnancy, engage in light weight-lifting exercises that can help to strengthen your lower back.
Some examples are:
- Deadlifts: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Using light weights or even none at all, bend at your waist and allow your hands to hang toward the floor. Keep your core and pelvic floor tight, and maintain full control as you bend down and come back up. Deadlifts are also used by serious weightlifting competitors and are often done with heavy weights. If you are pregnant, remember to use light weights to avoid injury it doesnt take much to strengthen your lower back. Youre just trying to avoid back pain not win a weightlifting competition!
- Arm and leg lifts: Get on all fours on the floor. Slowly extend one leg back and then up, maintaining full control the whole time. If you are able, lift the opposite arm and point it straight out. However, if you feel uncomfortable or if you are not able to maintain your balance, omit the arms or do them separately.
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A Pulled Back Muscle During Pregnancy
The muscles of the back are surprisingly strong but are meant largely to engage in continuous, low-intensity efforts. Requiring them to move quickly or contract strongly, as they must to lift a very heavy weight, can pull them, leading to painful aching and spasms. Most women don’t pull their backs during pregnancy, but for those who do, the experience is quite uncomfortable.
Postural Correction Helps Relieve Pregnancy Back Pain
Maintaining an ergonomically supported posture throughout the day can help take a considerable amount of stress and strain off the lower back tissues. Doctors also advise taking rest, limiting strain and high impact activities, and performing stretches and exercises to build strength in the pelvis, hip, and lower back. Pain-relieving medications such as NSAIDs are not considered safe during pregnancy and must be avoided.
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What Are The Types Of Back Pain In Pregnancy
Pregnant women may experience back pain in different parts. The various types of back pain include:
- Pelvic pain: This is the most common type of back pain most women experience during pregnancy. Also known as Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction or pelvic girdle pain , it occurs due to instability or rigidity of the joints in the pelvic area during pregnancy. Pelvic pain can be felt around the waist or in one or both of the buttocks. At times, the pain can be felt through the hips to the back of the thighs .
- Sciatica: The longest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve, stems from the lower region of the spinal cord, through the buttocks to the legs. Your growing uterus exerts pressure on the nerve leading to inflammation and pain. This can be felt as sharp shooting pain in the lower back, the buttocks, and throughout the legs .
- Lumbar pain: The pain radiates from the lumbar vertebrae and is felt at the center of the lower back, in the lumbar region, and can shift towards the legs .
- Thoracic pain:Upper back pain occurs in the thoracic vertebrae . Hence, it is also referred to as thoracic pain and commonly occurs in the third trimester.
When Should I See My Doctor For Back Pain During Pregnancy
Even if you experience only mild back pain, it is important to inform your doctor. He or she can recommend the best methods for you to manage those symptoms and can then monitor you throughout your pregnancy for worsening symptoms.
If your symptoms are severe, become severe, and are persistent or prolonged, call your doctor right away.
You should call your doctor and seek immediate medical care if your back pain is accompanied by:
- Numbness or weakness: Severe pain, numbness or weakness in the legs may be a sign of a condition called sciatica. While sciatica is not common, its symptoms can be similar to normal back pain. However, sciatica can cause leg pain that is more severe than your back pain. You will likely feel it below the knee and in your foot and toes, along with a tingling sensation, numbness or weakness. Call your doctor immediately if you feel weakness in one or both legs, or lose sensation in your legs, groin, bladder, or anus.
- Fever and dull ache: A fever accompanied by a dull ache across your lower back or along the sides of your back could be a sign of a kidney or bladder infection, or urinary tract issues. This would require immediate attention and treatment with antibiotics. Call your doctor immediately if you feel back pain accompanied by painful urination, blood in the urine, chills, or fever.
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