First and foremost, congratulations on this new journey in life and also… hold on to your hats kids! Ladies if you haven’t been told recently or just need a reminder: you are, hands down, some of the most amazing creatures on this planet.
Significant others, if you’re here to learn more about what your ladies are experiencing, then hats off to you for being caring and empathetic enough to research and help! Let’s go through the different ways in how to deal with back pain while pregnant
Quick side notes: if this article could be truncated or summed up in only two words, those words would be: Tylenol P.M.; it is in many’s opinion that Tylenol P.M. is God’s gift to pregnant women! *NOTE: Please consult your ObGyn before starting ANY course of medication or exercises while pregnant.
All kidding aside (sort of), pregnancy is one of the most exciting, terrifying, beautiful, empowering and incredibly vulnerable times for a mother-to-be (not to discount whoever is there with them along the way, but we’re focusing on the pregnant here).
At least 50% of all pregnant women will experience lower-back pain during the gestation period and with so many changes in the body, it’s no wonder that back pain is so common a side-effect.
Let’s be 100% realistic, if there is a tiny human being growing in a small area, the body will need to make LOTS of accommodations.
For instance, all those displaced organs have to move somewhere, the spine has to support the extra weight that little love adds – which means the posture will change – and that’s not to mention hormone changes and stress! So, what can be done to ease a woman’s discomfort?
First, let’s examine the causes of these discomforts, then discuss how they are all connected, and last, how they may be made more manageable.
Causes of Back Pain
According to americanpregnancy.org “the average age of women having their first child has risen to 25, up from 21.4, over the last 40 years.”
This alone is not surprising, but what IS perhaps surprising, is that many women are even waiting until about 35 years of age to have children. What changed? The drive of the female population of the work-force to concentrate on their careers and/or higher education (refer, again, to americanpregnancy.org).
How does that relate to back pain? Pregnancy is very anatomically and muscularly demanding, and as we age, so do our bodies. Unless a healthy level of activity is maintained, muscle strength will decrease, leaving the body less physically prepared for the strains of pregnancy and labor.
If an internet search for “back pain during pregnancy” were run, it would be immediately apparent that the same information, essentially, has been posted on many sites, each identifying the following as causes:
- Weight gain
- Posture changes
- Separated muscles
- Hormone changes and fluctuations
A cheap and easy way to lie on the stomach at home is to buy an inflatable
swimming pool donut, perfect for the baby bump!
Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy; as the baby grows its weight is added to the mother’s and in the presence of any preexisting conditions, such as diabetes, more weight gain may occur. But how to prevent back pain while pregnant?
With the increase in weight along with the outward growth of the stomach to accommodate the baby, the mother’s center of gravity shifts and her posture changes. This changes how a woman stands and even how she walks. Shortening of the lumbar curve causes pain as the curvature of the lower-back becomes more pronounced, this is due to stretching of the abdominal and pelvic muscles.
Occasionally the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis muscles (the muscles commonly called a “six-pack”), may separate as the uterus expands. When separation occurs, back pain may increase because of the lack of support provided that was otherwise provided by the abdominal muscles.
It is not only muscles that are affected; one of the most common topics of pregnancy is the hormones being “out of whack”, two such hormones produced by the body to aid in preparing for childbirth are: relaxin and estrogen. When these hormones begin to surge through the mother’s body they relax the ligaments and joints in the pelvis. There is a device called “The Muse”, which is a great meditation tool. I wrote my 300-day experience using The Muse, in case you want to read it.
Compound this laxity with the extra weight and change in the center of gravity and the back is now doing the lion’s share of the support work.
Physical pain can be stressful enough but throughout the entire pregnancy, there is a large amount of emotional stress associated too. Many times, the stress causes the muscles to tense, leading to back pain and possibly spasms. Those emotions and thoughts can wreak havoc on an already overburdened body.
So, now that we know what causes back pain, what can be done about it?
How to Deal with Back Pain While Pregnant
I’d like to reiterate here that it is important to consult your doctor before starting anything new!
1. Maintain a Healthy Activity Level
There are a good number of things that can make the pain more manageable while helping the mother remain active and healthy. Activities such as walking, swimming or stationary biking are all low-impact enough to do without overexerting.
Swimming has the added bonus of the “weightless” sensation and can feel great on the back almost immediately. It will also keep the body cool since it will run warmer while pregnant.
2. Good Body Mechanics/Posture
Bending at the hips puts added strain on the lower back as the weight shifts forward so always remember to squat instead. This will help decrease the amount of support the back must provide if one were to lean forward.
While seated remember to do so in an upright position, think of stacking one vertebra on top of another and lifting the crown of the head toward the ceiling. Practicing good posture will keep the spine supported and long while keeping back pain to a minimum.
3. Comfort/Support Over Fashion
It may never be more apparent than when you are pregnant just how much time is spent on the feet.
It is important not only for comfort but for your back as well that shoes are appropriate. Sorry to the ladies that love high-heels, keep them low; to the ladies that love ballet-flats try to find something with more arch support and thicker soles. Flip-flops are out too for the same reasons as ballet-flats, no arch support or cushioning.
Thicker soles allow the body weight to be more evenly distributed through the feet. Bottom line here is to make sure your feet have enough support under them to minimize aching or strain in the feet, make sure they also have some room for your feet to move. As swelling occurs reasonable footwear will become even more important.
It is still possible to make “reasonable” footwear aesthetically pleasing so don’t give up and go for orthopedic shoes if you don’t want to!
There is also some other tools that can be used, I wrote an article about massage chairs for elderly, that can be applicable to pregnant women as well and finding a back massager cushion can as well be a good benefit for any pain relief.
4. Prenatal Yoga
Yoga does not only help physically but is meant to help emotionally as well. With an emphasis on breathing, pelvic floor exercises, and abdominal exercises this can be a great, gentle way to stretch and strengthen the core – where the body needs the most support during this time.
During the stretches and exercise, take the time needed to sit with the ever-present thoughts and emotions that arise during pregnancy and acknowledge them. Doing this can both help in how to deal with back pain while pregnant and help alleviate the endless revolutions of the hamster wheel in the head. Read about how yoga can help with back pain if you are looking for more information on this topic.
Prenatal massage, just like any massage, is a great way to relax while the sore muscles are being worked on. As the tension is massaged away, more oxygenated blood flows to the muscles allowing the tension to ease.
Another amazing benefit from this tip is that it is a fantastic opportunity to lie on the stomach, which for some is a welcome position after being limited to the sides. Always make sure you communicate your expectations for the depth of the massage and which areas to focus on, which ones hurt the most). Also, be sure to communicate any discomfort to the therapist so adjustments can be made.
A home cure is to try one of those Back massager Cushions. It’s also a good idea to try a relaxing foam roller that can work as a type of massage or a neck massager depending on where you feel the most strain.
Fun tip: A cheap and easy way to lie on the stomach at home is to buy an inflatable swimming pool donut, perfect for the baby bump!
6. Physical Therapy
This tip is not one that is thought much about. Most people think of physical therapy as something one does after an injury or surgery, however it can be done at any time with the referral of your doctor.
This type of therapy is meant to help educate expectant mothers the back-friendly way to sit, walk, stand, lift and bend, even lie down. These one-on-one sessions provide additional support in the form of personalized exercises movements that can also be done at home in between appointments.
7. Rest and Elevate Feet
This is probably the most important tip! Take breaks and accept help, it is OK to let people do things for you, so there is no need to be the stubborn, independent woman. Elevating the feet will take the burden off the lower back with the added potential to lower the amount of swelling in the feet.
For all the discomfort back pain causes, most women only experience it later in their pregnancy. Now that we have some tips and solutions we can stay ahead of the game and while you’re taking care of yourself physically, now is a perfect time to start practicing self-care.
So ladies, let the ones you love, that love you just as much, dote on you, you are on the roller coaster of a lifetime and you deserve to enjoy as much of it as possible! So:
- Listen to people when they tell you to sit,
- Listen to your body when it tells you you’re overdoing it,
- Even listen to those cravings – eating what sounds good is better than not eating at all when you’re nauseated. A happy, relaxed mother-to-be helps the baby as much as you!
To the significant others that have stuck through this article, what can you do to help? Make sure she is actually taking breaks, she won’t mind, really, if you tell her she needs to sit.
Let her know that you are completely willing to do even the little things, like getting the food she craves. Tell her she’s beautiful and strong when you know she feels drained and exhausted. It’s a beautiful thing, pregnancy, but it’s easier to manage if there is a support system in place.