Coping with Back Pain During Pregnancy

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Pregnancy and back pain can be a strenuous combination for most women. Fortunately, pelvic girdle pain or PGP, which occurs during pregnancy, is manageable and there are ways to alleviate the discomfort and prevent long-term problems.

Pregnant women who have gained a lot of weight and are not having their first pregnancy are more likely to experience back pain. The pregnancy hormone “relaxin” also contributes to a woman’s back pain. The hormone causes the pelvis to expand as the baby grows. However, the ligaments in the spine also widen and force back muscles to make more effort. Extraneous factors, such as stressful work, previous pelvic injury, or standing for long periods of time, can also lead to back pain.

Almost one percent of pregnant women will have sciatica, which occurs when the inflammation or pressure from the back causes pain to the sciatic nerve (runs from the lower back to the feet). Sciatica feels like pins and needles coursing down the leg and causes weakness.

Pelvic girdle pain is not like the ordinary back pain when it comes to proper treatment. Incorrect pain management may cause even more pain to the PGP sufferer.

How to deal with back pain

  1. Do exercises. It is always recommended to stay fit before being pregnant, but if you already are, you can still do some exercises to reduce the risk of back pain. Work on your back strength moderately, which is safe enough even for pregnant women and can help to avoid back pain. Start slowly and do not undertake heavy lifting, which can be very damaging to your spine.
  2. Follow proper sitting posture. Keep your back straight and your shoulders back when sitting, and make sure that your buttocks are touching the back of the chair. Use a back support like a pregnancy pillow at the curve of your back to support your spine while sitting.
  3. Avoid standing in the same position for a long period of time. If you have to, rest one foot on a stool or box and switch foot position every five to 15 minutes.
  4. Get massages to soothe your tired, aching muscles. You can sit on a chair and lean forward against the back of the chair or you can lie down on your side in the bed. Get a massage on your lower back and the muscles on the sides of your spine.
  5. Get a warm bath. Heat and water are proven to alleviate your discomfort during pregnancy. You can also make use of a hot pack if you don’t have a tub. The shower head can also ease the pain by focusing the warm jet of water onto your back.
  6. Take aquanatal classes. Water exercises are not just for cardiovascular purposes, but also they can ease back pain for women before and after pregnancy. The gentle exercises are also believed to help with labor and to help the body recover after the effects of pregnancy.
  7. Wear support belts. Carrying a baby inside your belly can be too much for your back. Thus, support belts will help take some weight off the tummy muscles and back to support the pelvic joints.
  8. Get a TENS treatment. TENS, transcutaneous electrical nerve simulation, uses low voltage electric current to ease the back pain. A TENS unit is a small battery-operated device that can be hooked to a belt and connected to two electrodes. These electrodes link the electric current from the machine to the skin and cause a tingling sensation.

Andrea Barnes is a guest contributor for Michigan Spine Center. She has first-hand experience of back-pain treatments from The Spine Center during her pregnancy and she now writes self-help articles for other pregnant women.  Image courtesy of Flickr.