If pregnancy is becoming a pain in your back, you’re not alone — back pain is one of the most common symptoms among the expecting set.
What is back pain during pregnancy?
Back pain during pregnancy typically takes the form of aches, stiffness and soreness in the upper or lower back and hips that can sometimes extend into the legs and buttocks.
When does back pain during pregnancy start and end?
Unfortunately, back pain can start fairly early on in your pregnancy. Some women experience it in the first trimester, but for many women, back pains starts up around week 18, early in the second trimester. It can persist or sometimes worsen as the second trimester progresses and especially in the third trimester, up until you give birth (when it’s sometimes replaced by postpartum back pain!).
What causes back pain during pregnancy?
Throughout your pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is released, causing the ligaments of the otherwise stable joints in your pelvis to loosen up in order to allow easier passage of your baby during delivery.
Add to that the weight of your growing uterus, and your balance gets thrown off as your center of gravity shifts forward.
In turn, your lower back curves more than usual to accommodate the load — resulting in strained muscles and, you guessed it, soreness, stiffness and pain.
Is pregnancy back pain the same as sciatica?
It can be. If you’re feeling sharp, shooting pain that starts in your back or buttocks and radiates down your legs, you may be experiencing sciatica.
The good news about back pain during pregnancy is that it’s usually as resolvable as it is common. Plus, there are many ways to relieve it — so if one solution doesn’t work, another probably will.
Treatments for back pain during pregnancy
Try the following remedies to relieve your pregnancy backaches:
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Watch your posture when you’re sitting. Lounging around in a chair all day actually 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 and 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. Walk or stand and stretch frequently, at least once an hour if possible. 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. And if you must, do it slowly. Stabilize yourself by assuming a wide stance; bend at the knees, not at the waist; squat down and lift with your arms and legs, not your back. Better yet, ask for help!
Watch your weight. Keep an eye on your pregnancy weight gain — extra weight and gaining too much too fast can be hard on your back.
Wear the right shoes. Extremely high heels are out — as are completely flat ones. Experts recommend a low-heeled shoe with good arch support to keep your body in proper alignment. You might also consider orthotics, special shoe inserts designed for muscle support.
Get a firm mattress. If yours isn’t, place a board underneath it for the duration of your pregnancy. A body pillow (at least 5 feet long) can also help you find stress-minimizing sleeping positions.
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Consider getting a crisscross support sling or belly band. Designed specifically for a pregnant figure, these support bands can 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, for that matter. Use a low, stable step stool to get items from high places and avoid putting any additional strain on your back.
Think happy thoughts. A calm mind leads to a looser back. You can also try some prenatal yoga, which will relax both your mind and your back.
Strengthen your stomach. Do pelvic tilts to strengthen your abs, which in turn support your back. Or sit on an exercise ball and rock back and forth.
Go hot and cold. Soothe sore muscles by applying cold compresses, then warm compresses in 15-minute intervals.
Take a warm bath. Or, if you have a pulsating showerhead, turn it on for a free back massage.
Get a massage. Speaking of massages, go get one (after the first trimester and with a licensed massage therapist who knows you’re pregnant and is trained in the art of prenatal massage).
Talk to your doctor. Ask your practitioner about physical therapists, alternative medicine specialists such as acupuncturists, or chiropractors who might be able to help. You should also call your practitioner if you have severe back pain