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Back pain in pregnancy

Reviewed by David Johnson, MD
Back pain in pregnancy

Back pain in pregnancy is a problem many women experience and this is for very good reasons – the extra hormones during pregnancy cause softening in ligaments which in turn causes joints to move around more than usual; the growing uterus may cause bad posture; the baby’s position may be causing pressure on spinal nerves. However even in pregnancy there are some simple steps you can take which will help you to at least reduce pain and hopefully even get rid of it completely.

  • Good posture is essential in avoiding back pain in pregnancy and at any other time. When sitting in a chair it is a good idea to use something to support your lower back which will then help you to stop slouching – a tightly rolled towel does the job perfectly well. Keep shoulders up and back; chin up; head centred over the shoulders and avoid exaggerating the back’s natural arch. It is also advisable to avoid high heeled shoes.
  • Use good techniques this is important when lifting anything but would also included rising from a lying position to an upright one. In order to avoid back pain in pregnancy it is a good idea, when lying down, to roll onto your side and push yourself up with your arms rather than  going straight from a prone position to a sitting one.
  • Exercise – sometimes this seems like a veritable ‘cure-all’ – but that is probably because it does work! Strong abdominal muscles are well known to reduce back pain – your midwife or an instructor at a gym will be able to advise you on which abdominal exercises are suitable for back pain in pregnancy. Walking is also another ‘miracle cure’- a daily twenty minute walk is an excellent solution to many problems.
  • Rest the further along in your pregnancy you are the more you will need to rest, when you are lying down try to lay on your side and use a pillow for extra support – between your knees or under your growing tummy!

Taking good care of your back is important at any time but particularly during pregnancy due to the added pressures your growing uterus will place on your spine. In order to avoid back pain in pregnancy one of the most important things you can do is to NEVER bend with straight legs – this will put a huge amount of strain on your lower back and is just asking for trouble! Always use good lifting techniques. Always. Keep your back straight, bend your knees and squat or kneel in order to get things from the floor – this is especially crucial if you have a young child while you are pregnant – if necessary sit down and have your child climb onto your lap. Making a few easy lifestyle changes will help to minimise the risk of developing back pain in pregnancy.

  • Take special care when vacuuming – use your legs and lunge rather than bending with your back.
  • Carry a shopping bag in each hand and don’t overload them.
  • Have a chair ready for your laundry basket – you then won’t have to keep bending down for clothes as you hang them out.
  • Avoid twisting – face things to be done head on.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Support the lumbar region and your growing tummy.
  • Ask your midwife about strengthening exercises.
     

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