As your baby grows, the strain on your body increases. What you thought would be a relatively painless nine months has become an agonizing ordeal of daily back pain.
The good news? It’s normal. The bad news? It might not go away until after you deliver your baby.
Between 50 and 70 percent of pregnant people experience back pain during their pregnancies, and just knowing you’re not alone in the fight can help. What helps more is knowing what is causing it and how to deal with it.
We’ll cover the symptoms and causes of back pain and at-home remedies for pregnancy back pain relief.
What’s Causing The Ache?
The pain behind pregnancy backaches is multifaceted. Here’s what we know can cause your back to hurt when you are pregnant.
Most pregnant people can expect to gain between 20 to 25 poundsper pregnancy. Your doctor may recommend you gain more or less depending on your starting BMI.
This added weight gain places extra pressure on every joint and bone in your body, which can cause aches and pains.
Your center of gravity will change as your baby grows during the second and third trimesters. This shift can place extra pressure on your spine and the muscles that support it, causing back aches, joint aches, and cramping.
Your center of gravity helps keep you upright and helps your posture stay healthfully aligned.
When your center of gravity changes because of your expanding abdomen, your posture changes too. It’s natural for your shoulders to curve forward, your spine to curve, and your hips to sway back slightly.
These changes in posture can result in aches and pains all over your body, but you’ll most likely feel them near your sacroiliac joints or the joints that connect the bottom of your spine to your pelvis.
Having a baby is intimidating for everyone, and the stress that comes with pregnancy can cause you to experience physical changes.
Stress affects weak areas of the body, and because your back is already experiencing changes due to your pregnancy, you can expect to feel the effects of stress in this area.
As soon as you become pregnant, your body produces extra hormones needed to sustain your pregnancy.
These include progesterone and estrogen. Progesterone (or relaxin) is known as the “relaxing” hormone.
Progesterone naturally relaxes muscles, ligaments, and tendons; you’ll need the ligaments in your pelvic area to be loose and flexible before giving birth.
Unfortunately, progesterone relaxes all your ligaments, tendons, and muscles, making it harder for your muscles to support your body as they usually do.
The back muscles that support your spine will have a more challenging time supporting your spine due to the release of progesterone that causes them to relax.
Like many other pregnancy symptoms, hormonal changes can be at the root.
You’ve probably read about diastasis recti (the separation of the two columns of abdominal muscles during pregnancy).
The stomach muscles naturally separate in the middle to allow for the growth of your uterus and expanding belly.
When this happens, you’ll notice a change in your core strength, a vital function that helps keep you supported when you stand and helps support your back.
Thus, when your belly expands and the muscles separate, you can experience more back pain.
It’s no secret that getting comfortable while pregnant can be ridiculously difficult, and some sleep positions can hurt your aching back even more.
If you’ve found a position that supports your belly but is murder on your back, there might be a way to help keep your back supported and get better (less painful) rest.
Symptoms of Pregnancy Back Pain
Pregnancy is full of different feelings and experiences; it can be hard to determine if you are feeling true pregnancy back pain or something else.
If you suspect you have pregnancy back pain, you can check for symptoms like:
- Pain in the lower back and mid-back
- Aching and pain in the pelvis and hips
- Pain that gets worse either while standing or sitting
- Dull aches and throbbing
Most of the time, it’s easy to diagnose your back pain, but it can be difficult to figure out how to get it to go away.
Remedies for Pregnancy Back Pain
When you aren’t pregnant, it’s easy to deal with back problems by taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or getting a back massage.
When you are pregnant, it can be harder to get relief. Here are a few ways to naturally get rid of back pain while pregnant.
Keeping your body moving (if your doctor approves) is a great way to support a healthy pregnancy and keep your back from hurting. Exercise can reduce stress levels, release endorphins, and help alleviate pressure on your spine.
A 10 to 15-minute walk can help keep your spine and the muscles supporting it from becoming stiff. Another great idea? Prenatal yoga. This yoga program supports your body (and mind) throughout your pregnancy.
By employing stretches and breathing techniques, you can reduce stress levels, keep your muscles strong, and experience less back pain during pregnancy. If your doctor gives the green light, continue physical activity to support back health during pregnancy.
Use a Heating Pad
If you’ve been afraid to use a heating pad because you’ve heard it raises your core body temperature while pregnant, don’t be. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says using a heating pad on your sore back while pregnant is completely safe.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions, place a thin towel between your back and the heating pad, and use it for no more than 20 minutes. It’s never safe to sleep with a heating pad.
You can also use cold compresses on your back to get relief, but keep a towel between your back and an ice pack, as with the heating pad. You can use ice on and off for 20 minutes to help ease your aching back.
The safest way to sleep while pregnant is usually on your side. Side sleeping can be best for your tummy, but can place an extra strain on your back.
To get relief, try sleeping with a pillow between your legs. This method will eliminate some pressure on your spine, help keep it aligned and supported, and ease the discomfort you feel in this position.
If that doesn’t work, you can try a maternity pillow, a full-body pillow designed for use during pregnancy. It may take up more room in your bed, but it can help you find relief at night. Make sure to switch your positions so that you are not in the same position for long periods of time.
Work on Your Posture
It’s hard to keep your back from hurting when you have poor posture, and pregnancy can take a toll on your ability to sit and stand correctly.
While seated at a desk, try placing a rolled towel behind your lower back to add lumbar support. You can also use this while you are driving to ensure good posture.
When you stand up, focus on pulling your shoulders back and keeping your hips forward, which can engage your spine and help you experience less low back pain throughout the day. Ask your doctor if a chiropractic appointment or visit to a physical therapist would be safe for your pregnancy.
Reduce Your Stress
If stress is causing you to experience aches and pains, alleviate it by seeing a counselor, talking to a therapist, or confiding in a friend.
Pregnancy changes can also lead to prenatal depression, a condition that needs to be addressed by your doctor.
If you have thoughts of hopelessness or feel constantly overwhelmed, anxious, or sad, talk to your doctor about what you can do to feel better.
Other stress-reducing remedies include meditation, acupuncture, group therapy sessions, and journaling.
These may not seem like they’ll help your back, but if your back pain is due to stress, treating the underlying cause will help alleviate the pain.
Wear Better Shoes
You may love your high heels, but they aren’t doing your back any favors. Wearing shoes like heels or sandals can change how your feet pronate, leading to poor posture and muscle fatigue. Not only can you experience pain in your back, but you can also experience pain in your legs and feet.
Switching to shoes that provide good arch support can help reduce the back pain you feel and keep your feet and ankles from swelling by the end of your day.
Try Support Hose
They aren’t necessarily the height of fashion, but support hose can help take pressure off your legs and make it easier for you to walk properly.
Wearing support hose during the day can help you experience fewer aches and pains at night.
Many sock companies now offer supportive socks that are stylish and more aesthetically pleasing than the standard nude hose you’ve seen.
Ask for Help
Pregnancy isn’t the time to prove you can lift a heavy box from the ground to an overhead shelf. When there’s something heavy or dangerous to lift or move, always ask for help.
It’s beneficial for your body and your baby to stay as safe as possible. Not only will you be protecting yourself from unnecessary risk, but you’ll also be protecting your back from strains and pulls.
When To Call a Doctor
Most of the time, pregnancy back pain isn’t a reason to contact a healthcare professional. However, you should contact your doctor immediately if you experience back pain with these additional symptoms.
- Severe back pain
- Extreme abdominal cramping
- Fever or chills
- Inability to pass urine
- Numbness or tingling in your fingers and toes
- Cramps that follow a pattern (which could indicate preterm labor)
Contact your doctor immediately if you notice spotting or vaginal bleeding when you experience back pain.
Happy Back, Happy Pregnancy
It’s hard to feel good when you have constant pain, and pregnancy back pain can be unwelcome during every trimester.
Talk to your doctor if you’re suffering and can’t find a solution that works. It may be possible for you to safely use medication (like acetaminophen) to help manage your back pain.
If you experience back pain with other symptoms, always call your doctor to determine the right course of action. Your pregnancy is a marathon, and it can feel challenging to reach the finish line when aches and pains stop you in your tracks.
Take care of your body and communicate with your healthcare provider to help get the relief you need.
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Bridget Reed is a Tampa-based content development manager, writer, and editor at GR0; specializing in content related to varying fields including medicine, health, and small businesses. Bridget went to St. Petersburg College and majored in Management and Organizational Leadership.
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