Home » Misc » Why does my back hurt during pregnancy
Why does my back hurt during pregnancy
Back pain in pregnancy - NHS
It is very common to get backache or back pain during pregnancy, especially in the early stages.
During pregnancy, the ligaments in your body naturally become softer and stretch to prepare you for labour. This can put a strain on the joints of your lower back and pelvis, which can cause back pain.
Avoiding and easing back pain in pregnancy
Try these tips:
bend your knees and keep your back straight when you lift or pick something up from the floor
avoid lifting heavy objects
move your feet when you turn to avoid twisting your spine
wear flat shoes to evenly distribute your weight
try to balance the weight between 2 bags when carrying shopping
keep your back straight and well supported when sitting – look for maternity support pillows
get enough rest, particularly later in pregnancy
have a massage or a warm bath
use a mattress that supports you properly – you can put a piece of hardboard under a soft mattress to make it firmer, if necessary
go to a group or individual back care class
You can take paracetamol to ease back pain while you are pregnant, unless your GP or midwife says not to. Always follow the instructions on the packet.
When to get help for back pain in pregnancy
If your backache is very painful, talk to your GP or midwife. They may be able to refer you to an obstetric physiotherapist at your hospital, who can give you advice and may suggest some helpful exercises.
Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP or midwife urgently if:
You have back pain and you:
are in your second or third trimester – this could be a sign of early labour
also have a fever, bleeding from your vagina or pain when you pee
have pain in one or more of your sides (under your ribs)
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:
You have back pain and:
you lose feeling in one or both of your legs, your bum, or your genitals
Exercises to ease back pain in pregnancy
This gentle exercise helps to strengthen stomach (abdominal) muscles, which can ease back pain in pregnancy:
2) Pull in your stomach muscles and raise your back up towards the ceiling, letting your head and bum relax downwards gently – do not let your elbows lock and only move your back as far as you comfortably can.
3) Hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the box position – take care not to hollow your back, it should always return to a straight, neutral position.
4) Do this slowly and rhythmically 10 times, making your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully.
Doing prenatal yoga or aquanatal classes (gentle exercise classes in water) with a qualified instructor can also help build your muscles to better support your back. Ask at your local leisure centre.
Page last reviewed: 15 March 2021 Next review due: 15 March 2024
Back Pain During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatments
Written by Mary Anne Dunkin
Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on June 12, 2020
In this Article
Causes of Back Pain in Pregnant Women
Treatments for Back Pain in Pregnancy
When to Seek Treatment From a Doctor
The good news is, your baby is growing. That's exactly what should be happening -- but it can still be tough on your back.
You've got lots of company -- most pregnant women experience back pain, usually starting in the second half of pregnancy.
You should know that there are things you can do to minimize your back pain. Here's what helps.
Causes of Back Pain in Pregnant Women
Pregnancy back pain typically happens where the pelvis meets your spine, at the sacroiliac joint.
There are many possible reasons why it happens. Here are some of the more likely causes:
Weight gain. During a healthy pregnancy, women typically gain between 25 and 35 pounds. The spine has to support that weight. That can cause lower back pain. The weight of the growing baby and uterus also puts pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the pelvis and back.
Posture changes. Pregnancy shifts your center of gravity. As a result, you may gradually -- even without noticing -- begin to adjust your posture and the way you move. This may result in back pain or strain.
Hormone changes. During pregnancy, your body makes a hormone called relaxin that allows ligaments in the pelvic area to relax and the joints to become looser in preparation for the birth process. The same hormone can cause ligaments that support the spine to loosen, leading to instability and pain.
Muscle separation. As the uterus expands, two parallel sheets of muscles (the rectus abdominis muscles), which run from the rib cage to the pubic bone, may separate along the center seam. This separation may worsen back pain.
Stress. Emotional stress can cause muscle tension in the back, which may be felt as back pain or back spasms. You may find that you experience an increase in back pain during stressful periods of your pregnancy.
Treatments for Back Pain in Pregnancy
More good news: Unless you had chronic backaches before you got pregnant, your pain will likely ease gradually before you give birth.
Meanwhile, there are many things you can do to treat low back pain or make it rarer and milder:
Exercise. Regular exercise strengthens muscles and boosts flexibility. That can ease the stress on your spine. Safe exercises for most pregnant women include walking, swimming, and stationary cycling. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises to strengthen your back and abdomen.
Heat and cold. Applying heat and cold to your back may help. If your health care provider agrees, start by putting cold compresses (such as a bag of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel) on the painful area for up to 20 minutes several times a day. After two or three days, switch to heat -- put a heating pad or hot water bottle on the painful area. Be careful not to apply heat to your abdomen during pregnancy.
Improve your posture. Slouching strains your spine. So using proper posture when working, sitting, or sleeping is a good move. For example, sleeping on your side with a pillow between the knees will take stress off your back. When sitting at a desk, place a rolled-up towel behind your back for support; rest your feet on a stack of books or stool and sit up straight, with your shoulders back. When standing, pull your hips forward and your shoulders back. You may tend to lean back to compensate for your growing belly. Wearing a support belt may also help.
Stretch regularly. Look up the "backward stretch," the "low back stretch," and the "standing pelvic tilt." These strengthen your back and pelvic muscles.
Counseling. If back pain is related to stress, talking to a trusted friend or counselor may be helpful.
Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine in which thin needles are inserted into your skin at certain locations. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in relieving low back pain during pregnancy. Check with your health care provider if you're interested in trying it.
Chiropractic. When performed correctly, chiropractic manipulation of the spine can be safe during pregnancy, but consult with your doctor before seeking chiropractic care.
If you need to pick something up from the ground, use your legs to squat rather than bend over.
Don't wear high-heeled shoes. Choose low-heeled shoes with good arch support. Remember, as hormones loosen joints, you may need to buy a larger shoe size.
Don't sleep on your back.
Wear support hose.
If your back pain persists, you may want to consult your doctor to see what else you might try. Be sure to consult your doctor before taking pain medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safe for most women to take during pregnancy. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) are not advised. In some cases, your doctor may recommend other pain medicines or muscle relaxants that are safe during pregnancy.
When to Seek Treatment From a Doctor
Back pain, by itself, usually is not a reason to call your doctor. But you should call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:
In rare cases, severe back pain may be related to problems such as pregnancy-associated osteoporosis, vertebral osteoarthritis, or septic arthritis. Rhythmic pains may be a sign of preterm labor. So if you are experiencing any of these problems, it's important to be checked by your doctor.
Health & Pregnancy Guide
Labor and Delivery
All Guide Topics
5 Exercises for Back Pain During Pregnancy - Academic Medical Center (AMC)
During the second half of pregnancy, most women suffer from nagging lower back pain. Most often, it is caused by physiological changes in the body and disappears with a change in body position and the selection of a comfortable posture. Back pain can also be provoked by inflammatory and infectious diseases and exacerbations of chronic pathologies. To determine the cause of discomfort, be sure to consult a doctor. If no diseases have been identified, and aching pain is the result of an increase in the load on the back muscles, then special physical exercises will help to loosen it.
5 exercises to relax the back
Sit on the floor or sofa with your legs crossed. Take your right hand forward and begin to slowly wind it behind your back and turn after it with your whole body. Move until you feel a slight stretch in your muscles. After that, return to the starting position and turn to the other side. When performing the exercise, make sure that your back remains straight.
This exercise helps to relax the back muscles. Get on your knees, put your feet shoulder-width apart and rest your palms on the floor. Keeping your palms pressed to the floor, lower your buttocks onto your heels. The stomach should lie between the knees, and the back muscles should stretch.
Get on your knees and place your palms on the floor. Gently lift your back up, arching it in a semicircle. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax and repeat all over again.
Reverse cat back
Kneel down and place your palms on the floor. Raise your head up and bend your back down. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
Stand sideways against a wall or back of a sofa so that you can hold on with one hand. Holding on with your left hand, lift your right leg to a horizontal position. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, then repeat the exercise with the other leg. This exercise strengthens the back muscles, making them stronger.
How to do the exercises?
Before you decide to do exercises to relieve back pain, be sure to consult your doctor. He will assess your condition and determine the acceptable load level. All exercises must be performed smoothly, avoiding sudden movements and strictly following the execution technique.
Contraindications for gymnastics
Not in all cases, pregnant women are allowed to exercise. They are prohibited with the threat of miscarriage or premature birth, after pregnancy loss, with increased uterine tone, with severe toxicosis, changes in blood pressure, diseases of the spine and cardiovascular system.
How to prevent back pain?
During pregnancy, back pain is the result of increased strain on the back muscles and spine. To reduce stress and prevent pain, wear low heel shoes or shoes with less than 3 cm heels, support your lower back with a pillow when you sit, and sleep on your side, with a pillow under your belly if necessary.
Which symptoms require immediate medical attention?
Lower back pain in the second half of pregnancy appears due to the shift of the center of gravity, weakening of the ligamentous apparatus, preparation of the body for childbirth. However, back pain can also be a symptom of dangerous diseases or complications.
Seek medical attention:
- if you experience pain in the upper back and neck, accompanied by high blood pressure, headache or dizziness;
- with a decrease in the mobility of the shoulder joints and numbness of the fingers;
- in case of pain in the thoracic spine, which is accompanied by pain in the ribs and heart;
- for back pain accompanied by leg numbness;
- with aching pain that does not go away and does not weaken with a change in body position;
- for pain accompanied by fever, edema, pain during urination;
- with sharp, intense, cramping pains.
During pregnancy, you feel not only great joy in expecting a baby, but also a great responsibility for his health. One of the main conditions for a favorable course of pregnancy and the birth of a healthy baby is observation by a highly professional obstetrician-gynecologist. Unfortunately, the number of pregnant women at high risk to both mother and child is on the rise.
It is therefore important to see a doctor as soon as possible. In the early stages of pregnancy, an obstetrician-gynecologist must determine the health status of the expectant mother and conduct screening studies of the fetus on time. We offer comprehensive pregnancy support packages for you.
Pregnancy management at the Academic Medical Center is based on the provisions of the MOH pregnancy management protocol and 25 years of successful medical experience. Our comprehensive packages include a full range of necessary consultative and diagnostic measures from the moment of registration to delivery.
More pregnancy management packages.
Back pain during pregnancy - how not to miss a dangerous condition
Even the most long-awaited pregnancy can be overshadowed by pain in the back and lower back. These sensations occur at different times, but more often problems begin to bother in the third trimester, when the tummy is already clearly visible, and the fetus is actively gaining weight.
medical editor Ekaterina Mazeina
Every second woman experiences back pain or discomfort during pregnancy. These sensations can interfere with her daily activities, sleep normally. The future mother may have a psycho-emotional state and sexual activity. A quarter of women already in the early stages of pregnancy cannot work due to back pain of various origins
Typical types of back pain
see a doctor. Only a specialist will understand the real causes of pain and prescribe adequate treatment.
Let's consider the main causes of back pain, which are not associated with serious conditions and are easily corrected.
In many women, starting from the second half of pregnancy, the muscles of the back quickly get tired . Because of this, expectant mothers often have to lie down on a bed or sofa to rest and recover. The more serious the gestational age, the larger the child and, accordingly, the stomach, the stronger the discomfort. Such pain is aching in nature and intensifies in the evening, simply because during the day the muscles are greatly overstrained.
Another variant of typical back pain during pregnancy is when a woman sits or lies in one position for a long time . At the same time, overwork of the muscles also occurs, which provokes their spasm and convulsive contractions. The pain in this case occurs suddenly and is sharp, pulsating.
In pregnant women diagnosed with osteochondrosis or intervertebral hernia, pain usually occurs at the time of a sudden change in body position , for example, when leaving the car or getting out of bed. This is due to pinched nerve roots in the spine. Such pains are sharp, strong, often given to the buttocks or legs.
Pain requiring urgent medical attention
Cramping pain in the lower abdomen and lower back , especially if it is accompanied by bloody discharge, a feeling of fullness in the vagina - an alarming sign that requires immediate medical attention. This may be the beginning of a spontaneous miscarriage or premature birth.
In case of gestational pyelonephritis acute low back pain will be accompanied by:
lack of appetite,
severe general weakness,
Low back pain with renal colic sharp and unbearable. She gives to the crotch or legs. Often accompanied by severe nausea, repeated vomiting. During the passage of the stone, its sharp edges injure the walls of the ureter and an admixture of blood appears in the urine. Usually it is insignificant and is determined only in a laboratory study - microhematuria.
During exacerbation of chronic cholecystitis a woman develops a feeling of heaviness in the right hypochondrium and pain in the lumbar region. A bitter taste is felt in the mouth, belching of air, nausea and vomiting often occur. In some cases, there is an increase in body temperature.
pancreatitis is characterized by girdle pain in the lumbar region and hypochondrium, as well as:
loss of appetite,
Pregnant women should follow a balanced diet, because an attack of cholecystitis and pancreatitis can be triggered by eating fatty and spicy foods.
X-ray methods, including computed tomography, are rarely used during pregnancy. They are associated with ionizing radiation and can cause fetal developmental disorders.
Read all about back pain during pregnancy in the Encyclopedia on MedPortal.
How to relieve back pain during pregnancy
Moderate exercise can help relieve pregnancy pain. However, you can start classes only after examination and the permission of a doctor who will correctly determine the permissible level of load.
In addition, there are certain preventive measures that include:
Wearing an antenatal bandage and orthopedic insoles. They help to reduce pain, increase physical activity, improve the psycho-emotional state.
Weight gain not too fast.
Use of special pillows for pregnant women and orthopedic mattresses.