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There are two main areas that are affected by pain in pregnancy. One is in the region known as the “lower back”, and one is in the pelvic area, and is commonly known as “Pelvic Girdle Pain” or PGP. Unfortunately, a small percentage of women will be affected by both areas of pain.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on lower back pain.
Lower back pain during pregnancy is very similar to that experienced by women who are not pregnant. This means that the pain is located on one or both sides of your spine, and generally does not go into your buttock area, but it can at times refer to the lower leg or foot (2). It can be recurrent, or it can be continuous, and some of the terms sufferers use to describe it are ‘achey’, ‘tight’, ‘sharp’, ‘stabbing’, ‘pulling’ or ‘dull’.
How common is lower back pain in pregnancy?
Back pain is reported by 50-80% of women during pregnancy .
So as much as you don’t want to experience it, the good news for you is that you’re not alone and there isn’t necessarily anything ‘wrong’.
The time of onset of this pain varies, with some women experiencing pain from the very early weeks.
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What are the risk factors for lower back pain in pregnancy?
- If you have had a history of back pain, or a chronic back condition, you’re twice as likely to experience lower back pain during your pregnancy than someone who doesn’t.
- Despite the fact that many people think becoming pregnant at an “older” age will make it harder on your body, it has been shown that pregnant women who are younger than 20 years old are more likely to suffer from lower back pain.
- There also seems to be a need to strike a balance between being ‘sedentary’ and being very active, especially in your work. Studies have shown that people who are less active have an increased risk of pregnancy-related lower back pain than those who have a more active lifestyle. However, if you could describe your work as ‘mostly active’ or ‘physically demanding’, then you’re all at an increased risk of developing pain during pregnancy (1).
- The other bad news is- if you experience back pain during one pregnancy, it predisposes you to have it in any future preganancy also. In fact, this increases the risk from around 50% in your first pregnancy to around 85% in any later ones.
- On a similar note- the more pregnancies you have, the more likely you are to suffer lower back pain also.
No matter what stage of your pregnancy you’re in, there are ways to treat back pain. You probably won’t be able to prevent it completely, but you can help to minimize the pain.
Follow these tips for reducing back pain throughout your pregnancy.
- Focus on maintaining good posture when you’re seated or standing. Stand straight, with your chest high, and your shoulders back and relaxed.
- Try to avoid standing for long periods of time. If you’re on your feet a lot, try resting one foot on an elevated surface.
- If you need to pick something up, remember to squat instead of bending at the waist.
- Avoid lifting heavy things.
- Wear sensible shoes that offer support.
- Try sleeping on your side, not your back, with pillows tucked beneath your belly and between your knees for gentle support.
- Practice pregnancy-safe exercises designed to strengthen and support your abdomen and back.
- As your abdomen grows, consider wearing a supportive garment or belt to help take some of the pressure off your back.
- Research local chiropractors who specialize in pregnancy-related care and learn more about how an adjustment can help relieve back pain.
- When seated, try to elevate your feet and make sure your chair offers good back support. Use a lumbar pillow for additional low back support.
- Try to get plenty of rest.
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.
You can use ice packs to provide relief to back pain, and prenatal massages can be wonderfully relaxing and soothing, as well. If your back pain is excessive, speak to your doctor about medications to treat inflammation. You shouldn’t take any medication without approval from your doctor first.
When to contact your doctor
Back pain is typically a normal part of pregnancy. But in some cases, it can be a sign of serious problems, like preterm labor or a urinary tract infection.
Back pain that’s accompanied by fever, burning during urination, or vaginal bleeding shouldn’t be ignored. If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.
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