14 Remedies for Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy

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Pregnancy is a time where your body goes through a lot of physical changes. These changes are a normal part of pregnancy, however, they can cause you to experience back pain. Many pregnant women say that their back pain is worse during the third trimester however, some women can experience back pain as early as 4 to 16 weeks into pregnancy. Back pain can be irritating and make sleeping difficult, but luckily there are some things you can do to reduce it. In this article, we’ve provided some more information on pregnancy-related back pain and some things you can do to reduce your pain.

What Causes Back Pain in Pregnancy?

  • During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin which allows the ligaments in your pelvic area to loosen and stretch to prepare your body for labour. This can put a strain on your joints causing back pain.
  • Pregnancy causes your centre of gravity to shift, and you might find yourself changing your posture to compensate for this.
  • The weight of your baby bump causes the natural curve of your spine to increase.
  • Most pregnant women gain between 10kg and 12.5kg (22lb to 26lb), putting on most of the weight after week 20. The spine has to support this extra weight, which can cause back pain.

Stretches & Exercises to Help Back Pain

Exercise is equally as important as rest during pregnancy. For back pain especially, exercise is crucial as it strengthens the muscles and improves flexibility. Although it can be tempting to lie down when back pain hits, this isn’t always recommended. Instead, try some exercises or stretches that have been proven to relieve back pain.

1. Prenatal Yoga

Yoga is beneficial for back pain since it encourages stretching. In a yoga class, you will be led through different breathing, stretching and meditation techniques. As well as being great for relieving back pain, focused breathing and mental centring can also be very beneficial for pain relief during labour.

Prenatal yoga, hatha yoga and restorative yoga are the best types of yoga for pregnant women. Hot yoga should be avoided during pregnancy because the excessive exposure to heat increases the risk of neural tube defects and possibly other malformations to the fetus. Remember to talk to the instructor before starting any type of yoga class to check whether it is suitable.

When practising Yoga, be careful not to overdo it. Because of the increased production of the hormone relaxin in pregnancy, the ligaments around your joints will be much looser and you might find you’re much more flexible than you used to be, which can increase the chance of injury.

2. Pilates

Pilates is a low-impact exercise that helps improve your posture and movement. Pilates is a particularly good exercise for those with back pain; many of the exercises practised in a pilates class are designed to strengthen the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, which support the back. Pilates often focusses on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, which is important for labour and recovery after birth, it can also be great for preparing for childbirth.

3. Swimming

Swimming is a great exercise for pregnant women because the water can help to support your extra weight,reducing any pressure and stress on your joints and spine. This also makes any high-impact motions more gentle on your body. Your local swimming pool might offer pregnancy aqua classes where you will be led through a range of exercises and stretches suitable for pregnant women.

4. Pregnancy stretches

Some gentle stretching can help to relieve tension in your muscles and ease back pain, by loosening and strengthening the muscles. Try adding some gentle pregnancy stretches into your usual exercise routine to build up strength in your back. Some great stretches for back pain to include in your routine include the cat-cow stretch and child’s pose. It can be a good idea to use an exercise ball to provide extra support when stretching too.

Posture and Sleeping

1. Change Your Sleep Position

Finding a comfortable sleeping position can be difficult when pregnant, especially if you’re struggling with back pain. In the early trimester, sleeping in any position is fine and safe for your baby. In the later trimesters, it’s recommended that you sleep on your left-hand side, to allow optimal blood flow from the inferior vena cava (IVC) to your heart. To relieve back pain, sleep on your side with one or both knees bent.

2. Meditation

Meditation can be very effective for pain relief. Practising breathing techniques whilst meditating can help unclench tense muscles in your back and help to decrease your perception of pain. Practising meditation will teach you to focus on something calming such as the ocean and waves, which can be effective pain-relief when experiencing back pain and can also help during labour.

Regular meditation also has many mental health benefits, including reduced stress levels. Across the UK, up to 1 in 5 women develop some form of mental health problem during their pregnancy or in the year after giving birth. Women who experience stress or anxiety during pregnancy are more likely to deliver their babies preterm or at low birth weights. Doctors have said that meditation can be very effective for mums to be both during pregnancy and labour.

3. Pregnancy pillow

To help you find a comfortable sleeping position, you might want to consider a pregnancy pillow. There are a few different types of pregnancy pillows available, but most come in either U or C shapes and are long pillows designed to cushion your body from head to toe. You can wrap the pregnancy pillow around your body or use the pillow to support your back or hips whilst sleeping.

4. Firm mattress

To support your back in the later trimesters of pregnancy, it’s important that you have a firm and supportive mattress to sleep on. Nine months is a long time to struggle to sleep comfortably, so a high-quality mattress is well worth the investment. A memory foam mattress can be great for helping with back pain, as they contour closely to your body to provide extra support. If you don’t want to buy a new mattress, you could consider getting a memory foam mattress topper.

5. Improve your posture

Many pregnant women find that their posture changes during pregnancy. Your baby bump causes your centre of gravity to shift forward, which can add stress to the spinal joints and cause your back muscles to tighten. This means that you might find yourself leaning backwards a lot, which can place strain onto your low back.

The best way to avoid this is to work on your posture. When standing, hold your head straight, keep your shoulders back and your chest forward. Try to also keep your knees straight but not locked and pull in your stomach. When sitting, keep your back straight and shoulders back, and try to sit as far back in your chair as possible.

You can also consider buying some form of back support if you struggle to find a comfortable position whilst sitting or driving. There is a variety of these available, however, you can also use a rolled-up towel to help reposition your lower back.

Alternative Therapies for Back Pain

1. Hold and cold compresses

Hot and cold compresses can help to reduce inflammation and ease back pain. First, lower the body temperature with a cold compress to help constrict the blood vessels to slow the blood flow to reduce swelling and decrease inflammation. This also causes a numbing effect. Once inflammation is reduced, apply heat. Heat boosts the flow of blood and nutrients to an area of the body, improving the flexibility of soft tissues and movement of muscles. You should repeat this process intermittently for several hours or days in order to improve tissue healing and prevent recurrence of pain.

Before using hot and cold compresses, you should consult either your GP or midwife to ensure it is safe to do this whilst pregnant. It is not always safe to apply heat to certain parts of the body such as your abdomen whilst pregnant, and a healthcare professional will be able to advise you how to use hot and cold compresses safely without causing harm to your baby.

2. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine often used as a method of pain relief. During an acupuncture session, thin needles are inserted into certain parts of the body to stimulate the nerves and muscles, release endorphins and neurotransmitters. This process can help speed the body’s way of handling pain and restore the flow of Qi (the body’s energy flow) to normal. Acupuncture has been shown to be beneficial for pregnant women, especially during the first trimester to alleviate early symptoms such as nausea. It’s also helped many people cope with lower back pain. Before trying acupuncture, you should consult your GP to ensure it is safe and before a session, make sure that the acupuncture therapist is aware that you are pregnant.

3. Osteopathy

Osteopathy is an alternative medicine that uses physical manipulation techniques such as stretching and massage to provide pain relief to your muscles and joints. Osteopathy is based on the idea that your general health and wellbeing depend on your bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues all working in harmony together. An osteopath can help you to target problem areas such as your back, including if you’re struggling with sciatica.

In an appointment, an osteopath will want to find the source of the problem and hear more about your general health. They will also complete an examination to see how they can best help you. After an examination, an osteopath will usually use a combination of massage and manipulation techniques to help improve your posture. They might also provide you with some stretches and exercises you can practise between appointments to improve your posture and alleviate strain.

Although health professionals say osteopathy is safe for pregnant women, it’s still advised to get the advice of your GP before booking an appointment. Always make sure that an osteopath is aware that you’re pregnant before your appointment.

4. Pregnancy massage

The extra weight of your baby bump can cause a lot of tension to build up in your back muscles. A pregnancy massage incorporates a variety of massage techniques and is a great way to ease muscular discomfort and muscle tightening that can be experienced throughout the body, including calf muscles, lower back pain and upper back pain. It can also help to reduce swelling and improve circulation. A relaxing massage is also a great way to treat yourself to a rare relaxing moment before your baby arrives, to enjoy some pampering and calm your mind and body before giving birth.

5. Medication for pain relief

If you haven’t found a natural back-ache remedy that works for you or if your back pain becomes very severe, it might be worth consulting your doctor about possible pain relief medications. Your doctor might recommend medication such as acetaminophen or another type of pain relief. Never take medication during your pregnancy without consulting your doctor first as this can be very dangerous for the health of your baby.