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Back Pain During Pregnancy: Understand the Cause and Get Rid of the Pain

Oct 30, 2007
In 2007, The Back Pain Foundation asked women what their most important questions were about back pain during pregnancy. Below are the most frequent questions that women asked:

1. How bad will back pain be during pregnancy?
2. Why do I get back pain?
3. How can I stop the pain and make myself more comfortable?
4. Why do I get back pain during pregnancy?

Let's take a few minutes and discuss some of those concerns. First, we need to be very clear that not all women get back pain during their pregnancy. You may go through your entire pregnancy without getting any back pain. In addition, many women will get slight symptoms that they describe as a slight discomfort, ache or tightness but not pain.

What causes back pain in pregnancy?

As far as the cause or "why" someone might get pain during pregnancy, every woman's circumstances are different. Keep in mind that your body is undergoing many types of changes and stresses during pregnancy. You are gaining weight and the weight is pushing and pulling on your body in new ways, especially throughout your spine, pelvis and rib cage. This area is sometimes referred to as the "core" of your body.

Your core is the primary weight-bearing center of your body and also that which is most important for movement. And as your core movement changes during pregnancy, muscles can become stressed and overworked. Also your legs tend to be farther apart to help you carry the weight of you baby, so your center of gravity is different and your walking is different - creating more stress on your body. The new weight that you are carrying can also compress the vertebrae in your spine. Some women will experience these various stresses as pain or discomfort. All in all, your body has some good reasons to feel "cranky" and give you some pain. So the question becomes, what do to find some relief?

Pregnancy Back Pain Relief: Tips and Tricks to Eliminate Back Pain During Pregnancy

To help reduce or stop pregnancy back pain, rest whenever you need to...but not too much. One of the common myths about back pain is that you need "bed rest." This is not true. Research studies have demonstrated that too much bed rest is bad for your back. When you are pregnant you should take frequent rests, sitting and taking short naps whenever you need to. But do not spend too much time in bed; it will actually make your back pain worse.

When you do sleep, explore some new sleeping positions. For instance, try sleeping on your side if your normally sleep on your back (or vice versa). Keep one or both knees bent, as if in a fetal position. You may want to place a pillow or rolled up towel between your knees or under your stomach. The key is to experiment until you find the right position for your comfort.

Check with your doctor to see if he or she will approve light exercise. Remember what we said earlier about the stresses and strain of carrying new weight? Light exercise will help relieve that strain and stress. Swimming, and walking around the block or on a treadmill are potential ways of exercising and relieving your back pain and stress.

Get a "treatment." Are you the type of person that needs an excuse to get a massage? Now you have an excuse. Take advantage of it! Find a massage therapist that has training in prenatal massage. Feldenkrais is gentle bodywork that can also be extremely useful. A Feldenkrais practitioner can help you change the dynamics of your movement so that the pain goes away and you can move easier. And of course, you can take a nice warm bath, massage yourself or ask someone close to you to rub your back. A little TLC can go a long way.

Pay attention to how you move. Have you adjusted to your new body dynamics and weight? Do you have a stool or pillow to put under your feet to take the pressure off your lower back? Have your lowered your office chair to a more comfortable height? Are you sitting down whenever you need to? In other words, slow down, pay attention to how you are moving, and make adjustments. This is a difficult one, because we rarely pay attention to how we move. But you can learn to do it. Next time you make a movement, take a moment before you do and think it through in your mind. Visualize. Can you move in an easier pain free way?

In short, take care of yourself during pregnancy. Get plenty of rest, light exercise, warm baths and perhaps a massage or feldenkrais session and you will be fine. If you do get extremely bad back pain that lasts for more than a few days see your doctor or other health care provider. Most doctors are Ok with pregnant women taking an over the counter painkiller such as aspirin or ibuprofen but it is best to consult your provider first.
About the Author
Ryan C. Nagy, M.A. founder of the Back Pain Foundation, is a university early childhood instructor, and former autism researcher. Please come see him at:

The Back Pain Foundation: http://backpainfoundation.org/

Eliminate Back Pain Now: http://www.xbackpain.com
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