Back pain is one of the most common complaints during pregnancy, especially in the later months as the fetus grows. As many as 70% of women report that they experienced back pain during pregnancy, and this can be attributed to the many changes that happen to a woman’s body to accommodate the baby. While back problems are common, they do not need to be an inevitable part of your pregnancy experience. Once you understand the most common causes of pregnancy-related back pain, we will talk about some natural, safe, and effective options for care during your pregnancy and after delivery.
Causes of Pregnancy-Related Back Pain and Discomfort
The myriad of changes that happen as pregnancy progresses can lend themselves to contributing to back pain. Some women will begin to experience twinges of discomfort early on. Others may feel back pain creep in during the second half of pregnancy when more noticeable and outward changes start to emerge. Potential factors that can cause back pain and discomfort include:
- Changes in Hormone Levels – During pregnancy, your body will begin to make a hormone called relaxin which, true to its name, relaxes ligaments to prepare your pelvis to open for the birthing process. Relaxin can also cause a loosening of spinal ligaments, reducing their normal ability to support the spine, leading to back pain and instability.
- Shifting Center of Gravity – As the fetus develops throughout pregnancy, your uterus will expand forward to accommodate. Your center of gravity will move forward as your “baby bump” becomes more pronounced. Because this weight is carried in the front of your body, it can cause you to lean forward. This can place strain on the back, pelvis, and hips as your body has to work in ways it’s not used to in order to maintain your upright posture.
- Weight Gain – There is an expected amount of weight gain that occurs during a healthy pregnancy. As your pregnancy progresses and your uterus becomes heavier, this increases the amount of weight your back must support.
- Stress – Experiencing periods of increased stress during pregnancy is normal. Everyday stresses remain, and you may even have occasional worries about what life will be like once your baby arrives. Stress and muscle tension go hand in hand, and some of your pregnancy-related back pain can come from this common source.
- Muscle Separation – Your abdominal muscles that make up your core are the number one stabilizers of your back. When you’re pregnant, your abs will stretch as your belly grows, causing a weakening of your core. Sometimes, your abdominal muscles will even separate along the vertical line seam connects them. Because your spine can’t rely as heavily on your core for support, it can lead to back pain, soreness, and stiffness.
What Back Pain Relief Options are Safe During Pregnancy?
Thankfully, there are excellent, natural options available so you can begin to address your back pain without having to wait until you give birth:
- Exercise – staying active throughout your pregnancy can help to keep your back and abdomen strong and reduce the severity and frequency of back pain symptoms. Exercises that are typically considered safe during pregnancy include walking, swimming, yoga (be sure to let your instructor know you’re expecting so they can modify any poses if needed) and pedaling on a stationary bicycle.
- Mind your posture – as your belly grows, you may begin to slouch without even noticing. Take a moment to notice your posture while you’re standing, sitting, and lying down. Try to prevent your shoulders from rounding forward and your lower back from pushing forward. You might use a pillow or rolled-up towel for extra lumbar support while sitting. When sleeping on your side, placing a pillow or two between your bent knees can also help reduce the strain on your back. Use proper form while lifting things (lift with your legs!), and avoid wearing high-heeled shoes.
- Stress management – if your back pain is related to stress, there are many tools you can use to help cope better. Talk to a trusted friend or find a counselor, try meditation, listen to your favorite music, or draw a warm bath for yourself to relax in.
- Pregnancy massage – some massage therapists are trained to provide prenatal massage. This can help with sore muscles and tender spots that arise during pregnancy.
- Chiropractic care – when you look down the list of common back pain causes during pregnancy, all of them can be connected with spinal misalignment. Gentle chiropractic adjustments can help to restore normal alignment, bringing you natural relief. When the spine is aligned correctly, the vertebrae, muscles, ligaments, and nerves can all function better, leading to a reduction in back pain.
Back Pain Relief During Pregnancy Starts with the Neck
Since so many changes are happening at once during pregnancy, having a chiropractor who can help you sort through what may be causing your back pain is essential. Upper cervical chiropractic care is a branch of the chiropractic profession that is especially well-suited during pregnancy because it is gentle and specific. Gentle adjustments are imperative due to the loosening of ligaments that happens from the release of pregnancy hormones. Upper cervical chiropractic care focuses on restoring the alignment of the uppermost vertebra in the spine, the atlas (C1). The atlas balances the head, and when the head is not in its neutral position, the rest of the back is forced to compensate. This issue often exists pre-pregnancy, but as your body changes and prepares for birth, it can magnify the intensity of back pain.
Relief of back pain in pregnancy often starts with a simple consultation with an upper cervical chiropractor. During this consultation, the doctor will take the time to understand your condition, explain how they can help, and provide care that is tailored for your needs. Use our website to locate a practitioner in your area so you can spend more time enjoying your pregnancy and less time focusing on your back pain.
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