Causes of pregnancy-related back pain
The causes are many. For one, your center of gravity shifts due to the growing belly circumference, while the belly and abdomen pull forward. The result: many women unconsciously shift their posture and have a hollow back to balance out the new center of gravity. This unfamiliar posture is not good for the back and very often leads to discomfort.
In addition, there are hormonal changes that affect the connective tissue, the ligaments and also the muscles. These changes start early and can cause back pain at the beginning of pregnancy. With the increasing abdominal circumference, the ligaments stretch as well. The ligaments‘ job is actually to hold the body together, but it now has to make room for another little person. Hormonal changes therefore cause the ligaments to become softer and looser. Unfortunately, this also leads to tension, which is why lower back pain occurs more often.
The hormones that influence this have a clear purpose in nature: they prepare you and your body for childbirth. Especially the birth canal, and thus the lower back and the hips are affected. For your baby to be born, the pelvis must be loose and flexible. Mother nature has set this up reasonably. However, you will feel the disadvantage of this throughout the pregnancy: your joints will lack necessary strength and the result is often painful.
Especially women who were not physically active before pregnancy tend to have more problems with a sore back. A well-strengthened back helps balance the body’s new center of gravity and counteracts tension. But just because you were not very active before pregnancy does not mean that you simply have to live with the consequences.
There are some tips and tricks that will lead to baby bump relief and help you to get through the pregnancy painlessly. If in doubt, you should always ask your doctor, because the causes must be clarified; that’s the only way to have a relaxed pregnancy and focus on your baby. So, if you are unsure where the pain comes from, or if the back pain could even be contractions, make sure to ask your doctor for advice.
People often tend to take on a relieving posture when in pain and therefore tend to move less. However, if your back hurts, regular exercise can help you. If you’re still feeling fit, why not walk a bit? A short stroll, a walk to the nearest bus stop or a trip to the café often work wonders.
You should not carry around heavy bags or groceries, but you can make the trip of a few meters for a piece of cake and a cup of tea; fresh air and exercise relax your muscles. If sleep problems also arise towards the end of the pregnancy, you can ease both problems with a walk in the evening. Thanks to exercise and oxygen, it is easier for the body to unwind and calm down.
Many women want to do something good for themselves and the baby during pregnancy. Your body consciousness and awareness changes as you are now responsible for two people. Quite a few women begin practicing sports specially tailored to pregnant women during this time. Swimming is especially popular, despite your increasing weight you feel light and the water resistance creates a proper training effect for muscles and your cardiovascular system. In addition, it reduces swelling in hands and legs.
Swimming is just the thing for the back, because thanks to simple and flowing movements you relieve your joints, automatically doing your back a favor. Many swimming pools offer aquagym courses for pregnant women. Take part in a course as not only an opportunity to stay active, but also to meet other expectant moms in your area!
Other types of exercise that prevent back pain that are also recommended by midwives are yoga and pilates; existing pain is alleviated and future pain is prevented from developing. Through calm movement and exercises, the deep back muscles are strengthened and relaxed.
A simple exercise that you can do in between: stand face to face with a wall at arm’s length. Stretch out your arms, place your palms against the wall and bend forward slowly. As you are standing in front of the wall, walk down your hands along the wall so that your body resembles the shape of a table against the wall. Make sure that you only lean forward as far as it feels comfortable to you and remember to bend your knees slightly.
As much as exercise helps, relaxation is just as important to spare the loose muscles. The loosened muscles are more vulnerable and therefore need rest. Be sure to watch how you lie down and put up your legs more often; this helps with circulation.
Back pain can be relieved easily by placing parts of your body on different levels and thereby redistributing the weight. Lie down comfortably on the floor in front of the sofa or a chair. Now place your legs on the sofa or chair at a 90-degree angle. Place your arms loosely next to the body or on your belly. If you feel the weight of your belly is already pressing down on you a lot, place a pillow under the pelvis. In this position, especially the lower back is relieved.
A quick fix for back pain: placing your legs up against a wall. Source: Tomas Anderson/123rf.com
However, even at night you may quickly start noticing your back. Is back pain making it difficult to fall asleep? Try to lie on your side and pinch a nursing pillow or a side sleeper pillow between your knees. Even the ever-growing belly can be placed on the long pillow. This relieves the entire spine and aligns it horizontally.
Relaxation is important, but this awareness is often lost in everyday life. Something may hurt or pinch a little here or there and in the evening all of a sudden you can hardly move. That is why it is important for the back that when it carries weight, it does so in the proper fashion. Your posture plays an important role.
Whenever you think about it, consciously get out of the hollow back position and pull your tailbone down and inward. Even this small movement – whether when waiting at the traffic light, blow drying your hair, or walking – relieves back pain. This awareness should also be there for everyday movements, such as bending over while brushing your teeth or while throwing trash into the bin. Do not bend down too much and always bend your knees instead of bending your upper body downwards.
Getting up properly out of your bed or off your couch also helps prevent back pain. Instead of just raising your upper body as usual, you should turn to the side and sit up by using your hands to press yourself up off the furniture. This relieves your back immensely.
A very effective aid is the regular wearing of a supportive belly belt for pregnancy, like the Upsie Belly by Belly Bandit. It reduces pelvic pain by stabilizing the joints and lifts and supports the growing baby bump, by reducing stress on the back muscles, relieving the pressure on the bladder and improving back posture.
Many pregnant women are advised at the beginning of pregnancy not to lift things anymore. However, this advice is only partially sound. Much more important than the decision “Do I still lift something or not at all?”, Is the question “How do I lift it correctly?” Most importantly, if you already have small children or have to carry the occasional shopping purchase, lifting can’t always be avoided. So if you can’t avoid it, you might as well do it right.
Even a fallen handkerchief can cause problems if it is picked up incorrectly. Nonetheless, you should not lift anything heavy or bulky; lightweight things are completely fine. It is important, however, that you do not lift from the back, but from the legs instead.
What does that mean? Bend your knees and enter a squatting position if you want to pick something up off the floor or from a low shelf. When getting up, keep your upper body straight and support yourself – if necessary – with your hands on your thighs.
Heat helps against back pain – also during pregnancy. Regardless if it‘s after a long and tiring day or in between when you feel severe pain: a well-tempered bath or a relaxing massage works wonders. If you do not have time to bathe, a hot water bottle or a cherry stone pillow will help, too. You can place both of these heat sources on the lower back or the upper spine and the shoulder area, depending on where it hurts.
Pregnancy massage while lying down on the side. Source: Wavebreak Media Ltd/123rf.com
If you have a physiotherapy or massage practice in your area that specializes in pregnant women, treat yourself to a massage. A little break just for you relaxes the back, relieves pain and helps you recharge your batteries. Your doctor can recommend a suitable practice and tell you what to look for, depending on the pain and the cause.
As you see, there are many ways to relieve the back and to relieve pain. You alone will realize what works best for you and feels good; just listen to your gut feeling and your belly‘s little inhabitant.