Back pain is common in pregnancy. Somewhere between a half and three-quarters of pregnant women have it at some stage. However, there is plenty one can do to ease the discomfort and prevent it from turning into a long-term problem.

Back pain in pregnancy

There are two types of back pain in pregnancy:

True back pain occurs when ligaments, muscles, discs and joints become strained. Poor posture, bad lifting technique, weak or tight muscles or injury can cause the strain. If you suffer from this, you are likely to have had it before becoming pregnant.

Your back pain may increase towards the end of the day or if you have been on your feet for a long time. This is because your muscles get tired and your ligaments stretch slightly from the weight of your body and baby.

Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) occurs as a result of pregnancy and needs to be managed very differently to back pain. Standard treatments for back pain usually don’t work for PGP and can even make the pain worse.

Preventing Back Pain in Pregnancy

Back pain can be helped by making sure that you are as fit as possible before becoming pregnant. If you are already pregnant, it is not too late to work on your fitness. Weekly exercise may reduce your chances of suffering back pain.

A moderate back strength-training program is also safe to undertake during pregnancy and may help to prevent back pain.

If you are not used to exercising, start slowly. Checking your posture, avoiding heavy lifting and following some simple back care advice can also help to prevent problems developing.

What can I do to ease my back pain?

  • Exercises: pelvic floor, tummy and stabilisation exercises can help to reduce the strain on your pelvis. Get down onto your hands and knees and level your back so that it is roughly flat. Breathe in and then, as you breathe out, squeeze in your pelvic floor muscles and pull your belly button in and up. Keep squeezing for between five and 10 seconds without holding your breath and without moving your back. Relax the muscles slowly at the end of the exercise.
  • Massage: this soothes tired, aching muscles. Lean forwards over the back of a chair or lie on your side. Ask your partner to gently massage your lower back and the muscles that run either side of your spine. A trained massage therapist, your midwife or a physiotherapist can help you further.
  • Good posture: if you have pain over your tailbone (coccyx), try not to slump when sitting and arch your back as much as is comfortable. Try sitting on a soft or wedge-shaped cushion.
  • Swimming: find out if your local pool holds aqua-natal classes. Exercising in water can help to ease back pain during pregnancy.
  • Acupuncture: it is essential that you find a practitioner who is trained and experienced in using acupuncture during pregnancy.
  • Maternity pillows: sleeping on your side with a wedge-shaped pillow under your tummy may help.
  • Heat and water: a warm bath, a hot pack or a warm jet of water from a showerhead can ease discomfort.
  • Support belts: these take some of the weight of your baby off your tummy muscles and back and help to support your pelvic joints.

If you have a little one on the way and are feeling the strain (or even if you’re not) – why not pop into the clinic and see if Jeremy can help ease the pain or prevent it from developing into a long term problem?