For many soon-to-be moms, and even for many women who have been through it before, the joy of pregnancy is tempered by the torment of back pain. About 50 percent to 70 percent of women suffer from lower back pain during pregnancy, studies show. Factor in that about 4 million babies are born in the U.S. each year, and that’s a lot of pain.
Fortunately, there are safe solutions for pregnancy back pain relief. From practicing better posture, to getting the right kinds of exercise, to incorporating ergonomic seating for lumbar support, potential remedies that don’t include medication are plentiful.
The back pain associated with pregnancy often stems from weight gain, a change in your center of gravity, and/or the fact that your hormones are directing the ligaments in your pelvic joints to relax. That causes those ligaments to become shorter, tighter and weaker.
Preventive action can reduce the incidence or severity of pregnancy-related back pain. Experts say that even before pregnancy, women should educate themselves on maintaining proper posture, how to lift weights without stressing their back muscles, and how to use the proper cushions, beds and ergonomic seats.
While these measures can help, preventing pain completely isn’t always possible. While this discomfort is a reminder that there’s a baby growing inside, it’s a reminder not worthy of celebration.
If you have severe back pain that lasts more than two weeks — or is accompanied by vaginal bleeding, fever, or burning during urination — consult your health care provider.
With all of this in mind, here are some of the top solutions for how to relieve back pain during pregnancy, and why each helps you avoid back pain. As always, consult your obstetrician/gynecologist before beginning any activity while pregnant.
Practice Good Posture
Why this helps: With a growing belly, you tend to lean backward to compensate for the change in your center of gravity, putting extra strain on your spine. Standing up straight, sitting up straight, taking breaks, not carrying other children on your hip, and engaging your core muscles as much as possible all can help you reduce the strain. Bonus: Proper posture aids the actual birth, as it helps your baby align in a better position.
Consider Wearing Low Heels a Shoo-in
Why this helps: Flats provide no arch support. High heels are high-risk, as they push your balance further forward, add your pregnancy weight to your lower spine and hip joints, and accentuate the curve of the spine in the lower back. That leaves low-heeled shoes with built-in arch support or an orthotic insertion, both of which distribute your weight more effectively.
Incorporate Ergonomic Seating
Why this helps: Stand up to back pain by sitting in an adjustable ergonomic chair that provides lumbar support, such as those designed by Concept Seating. An adjustable chair allows optimal posture and specifically fits your spine and your lower back’s inward curve.
Wear a Maternity Support Belt
Why this helps: This undergarment boosts your belly, reducing the strain on your lower back and pelvic girdle.
Adjust Sleeping Position
Why this helps: Sleeping on your side, with one or both knees bent, and with support pillows between your knees, under your belly and behind your back could be the answer to your dreams, as they help prevent your spine from sagging. A firm mattress is a must.
Heat Up and/or Cool Down
Why this helps: Applying a heating pad or ice pack could help increase blood flow to the area, and reduce inflammation and its accompanying pain.
Get a Therapeutic Massage
Why this helps: As pregnancy strains your posture, your muscles may knot. A massage therapist who is certified to perform prenatal massage will be familiar with the normal problem areas, but any massage can be beneficial and also provide stress relief.
Why this helps: Keeping your back muscles strong will help prevent muscle strain, but don’t overdo it. Use a resistance band or very light dumbbell and work your core and leg muscles. Walking and doing planks are less strenuous options.
Practice Yoga and/or Gentle Stretching
Why this helps: Yoga focuses on improving strength and flexibility, including by using poses such as pelvic tilts that can help prevent or treat back pain. A prenatal yoga class may include pose modifications that keep you from lying on your back. Bonus: Yoga can reduce emotional stress, using mindful breathing exercises.
Why this helps: Congratulations, it’s a buoyancy factor. Less gravitational pull in the water means the weight is off your lower back. Plus, doing the backstroke reduces the pull on your shoulders; doing the breaststroke strengthens your back and chest muscles; and the frog kick forces you to stretch your lower back.
Consider Alternative Therapies
Why this helps: Acupuncture uses small needles to stimulate specific pressure points that correspond with various bodily systems, and some studies show it is more effective than medications or physical therapy at treating chronic back pain. Chiropractic treatment can be used to manipulate and align the spine, and physical therapy offers similar benefits. Relaxation techniques such as meditation may reduce anxiety and thus relieve some muscle spasms, and can be practiced anywhere at any time.
Lift Objects Properly
Why this helps: When you have to reach down to pick up something, lifting with your legs, not your back, keeps you from putting extra strain on back muscles. Don’t bend at the waist — and get help when lifting larger objects.
Trying these solutions should alleviate the lower back pain that accompanies many pregnancies.
For help incorporating ergonomic seating as one of your solutions, contact Concept Seating today.