Have you experienced sharp back pain during pregnancy?
Unfortunately, you probably have.
Somewhere between 50 and 70% of pregnant women experience backaches.
Although it’s a common issue, it can be difficult to treat since you shouldn’t take some over-the-counter pain medications while expecting.
We got you covered though. In this post, we’re sharing 11 hacks for pregnancy back pain relief.
Back Pain During Pregnancy
Back pain during pregnancy is an ache or stiffness in any area from the neck to the hips, sometimes also affecting the legs or butt. Although bothersome, back pain is common during pregnancy. You can get it during any stage, from the first trimester to your last. The aches may come and go, feeling sorer during one trimester than another. Or, the pain may persist throughout your entire journey.
First Trimester Back Pain
For some women, back pain could actually be one of the first signs something is different with their body. One reason could be that your hormones are starting to get ready for a baby, affecting your joints.
Second Trimester Back Pain
During your second trimester, your back aches may fade, or they may get worse. One reason it may become more sore is that the added weight of a baby means your spine has more to support.
Back Pain in Pregnancy Third Trimester
Back pain is a common pregnancy symptom in the third trimester. As you get closer to labor, your hormones shift to make your connective tissue loosen, getting the birth canal ready. Although the added pelvic flexibility is a good thing, it can also lead to hip pain. If your posture changes to adapt to the hip pain, improper posture can also lead to lower back pain.
Postpartum Back Pain
Although pregnancy can trigger back pain, that doesn’t mean it will immediately go away after labor. For some women, aches continue even after they’ve given birth. During this time, your changed hormones may still be a cause. Sore abdominal muscles, pushing during delivery and poor posture when holding your newborn may also be culprits.
What Causes Back Pain During Pregnancy?
There are a number of causes of back pain during pregnancy, some depending on how far along you are.
- As your body gets ready to birth a baby, it needs to loosen the pelvic area to make delivery easier. To do this, it produces a hormone called relaxin. This allows the ligaments and joints to soften. The downside is that it can also make the spine loosen, which can cause pain.
- Weight Gain.A healthy pregnancy involves weight gain, which means your spine will have to support an added 25 to 35 pounds. The weight of your growing baby and uterus also adds pressure to the nerves and blood vessels in your back.
- Posture Changes.As your growing baby belly changes your center of gravity, you may notice your already-poor posture getting worse. Or, you may start adjusting your posture for comfort, leading to alignment issues and pain.
- As you probably know, stress during any time can cause a variety of health issues, including muscle pain. Since pregnancy is a life-changing event, it’s normal that it leads to a certain amount of emotional stress. If you notice sharp back pain during pregnancy during periods of heightened stress, this could be the cause.
- Muscle Separation. It’s common for the two muscles that run through the middle of your stomach to separate (called diastasis recti, or divarication). Although this sounds scary, it’s a common cause of your expanded uterus pushing them apart. This can make back pain worse.
- Repetitive strain on your back can lead to back pain. This could include improper form when working out, lifting or doing everyday activities.
- Health Conditions.Although back pain is a common pregnancy symptom, it could also be the cause of a health condition, such as arthritis.
FAQ About Back Pain During Pregnancy
Here are some commonly asked questions about back pain while expecting.
Can Gas Cause Back Pain in Pregnancy?
Some people wonder if gas pain can masquerade as back pain. During pregnancy, your body produces more estrogen, which may lead to more gas and bloating. If gas pains develop, they can affect the abdomen, chest and even the back. If you have bloating or stomach cramps along with your back pain, gas could be the cause.
Can Constipation Cause Back Pain in Pregnancy?
Constipation and back pain are two common pregnancy symptoms. They may be related or unrelated. For example, some conditions, like fibromyalgia, can cause both problems. In some situations, conspiration can cause dull low back pain. In many scenarios though, if a pregnant woman is experiencing both, it’s because each has separate pregnancy-related causes (ex. hormones and increased iron intake).
Is Twin Pregnancy Back Pain Worse?
Any pregnant woman can experience back pain, but it can be worse if you’re expecting twins. That’s because your body is gaining even more weight with an extra baby. This puts added pressure on your spine, which can lead to aches.
Is Pregnancy Back Pain Medication Ok?
Try the remedies in this post before reaching for medication. If the aches continue, ask your doctor for recommendations. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safe for most pregnant women. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like Advil, should be avoided. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe pain medication. For more information on medication for back pain during pregnancy, read our guides:
- Safe Medications and Remedies for Pregnancy Symptoms: A Go-To Cheat Sheet
- What Medicine Can Pregnant Women Take? 31 Common Questions
Pregnancy Back Pain Relief: 11 Hacks
Before turning to medication, try these natural remedies for back pain during pregnancy.
#1 Pay Attention to Posture
Even if you’ve always had bad posture, you may be feeling the effects more during pregnancy. Good posture means that your neck, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are aligned. If you’re not used to holding yourself this way, it can be easy to slump over on the sofa or lean over your computer at work. If needed, set a timer every hour to remind yourself to correct your posture. Over time, it will become a habit, leading to less pain.
#2 Take Stretch Breaks
Whenever you’re sitting or standing for a long period, break it up with some stretching. For example, if you’re sitting down working, take a moment to get up and stretch. Here’s a tutorial for low back stretches during pregnancy.
#3 Apply Heat and Cold
To minimize pain, apply a cold compress to your back. Then switch to heat, using a heating pad or water bottle.
#4 Have a Bath
How does a warm bath help soothe backaches? Heat releases endorphins, which act as an analgesic. Endorphins can block sensory signals of pain, reducing aches.
Pay attention to how hot your bath is though; pregnant women shouldn’t raise their temperature to over 101-102°F for more than 10 minutes because it may affect the baby. For this reason, you shouldn’t sit in a hot tub for longer than 10 minutes.
#5 Prenatal Massage
If you have repetitively strained your back, you may develop muscle “knots,” AKA “trigger points.” These areas of tight muscle can be softened by applying repeated pressure, such as during a professional massage. It’s a good idea to choose a therapist who specializes in, or, at the very least, has knowledge of, prenatal massage.
If you’re unable to pay for a massage, ask your partner or family member to lend a hand. Although they may not have the same therapeutic touch, it may help relax your aches. To learn more, read Can Prenatal Massage Help Pregnancy? 7 Little-Known Benefits.
#6 Wear Comfortable Shoes
Ditch the heeled-shoes for something more supportive. High heels can throw you off balance, affecting your posture and making back pain worse.
#7 Avoid Heavy Lifting
If you need to lift something heavy that could strain your back, ask for help from someone else. If that’s not possible, lift in proper form. This means having a wide stance, bending at your knees instead of your waist, and lifting with your arms and legs instead of your back.
#8 Sleep On Your Side
If you normally sleep on your back, try switching to your side. Use a pillow below your belly and between your knees for support and comfort.
#9 See a Chiropractor
If your back pain isn’t subsiding, it may be worth checking out a chiropractor who specializes in pregnancy aches to see if an adjustment will help.
#10 Gain a Healthy Amount of Weight
How much weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on a few factors, including your current weight. In general, a woman will gain about 25-35 pounds. Putting on more weight than you need can add extra strain to your back, so try to keep it within a healthy range.
#11 Use a Belly Band
A belly band or maternity belt takes the pressure of your belly weight off your back. Giving your belly something to lean into helps support the lumbar area, alleviating pain. Many women have written reviews on these products saying it’s allowed them to continue working through their pregnancy aches.
Summary of Pregnancy Back Pain Relief Remedies
Pregnancy back pain can start in the first, second or third trimester and may last as long as you’re expecting or even after. Many over-the-counter pain relievers should be avoided, so try the natural back pain remedies for pregnancy in this post instead. If it doesn’t subside, talk to your doctor about other options, such as seeing a chiropractor or taking prescribed medication.
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