Pregnancy and Back Pain
Half of all pregnant women can expect some back pain. Learn more about how to relieve the pain during your pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a time of rapid biological change. All bodily organs and systems are affected by the growth of the fetus and this brings with it alterations in body mass, a subsequent change in the centre of gravity and stretching and weakening of abdominal muscles. According to scientific studies, roughly one half of all pregnant women suffer from back pain (Obstet Gyecol 1988; 71:71-5).
Back pain develops for many reasons. One is simply the added weight caused by the pregnancy. Another may be that the extra weight is carried in the front of the body, shifting your centre of gravity forward and putting more strain on the low back. The muscles in your back may have to work harder to support your balance. Pregnancy also brings about a condition called sacroiliac joint dysfunction (also called SI joint dysfunction or SI subluxation). This involves misalignment or restricted movement in the sacrum and two iliac bones that form the pelvic girdle. In preparation for delivery, the body increases production of a hormone called relaxin. This hormone softens the ligaments that hold together the pelvic bones. Although this process facilitates delivery, it also undermines the alignments of the sacrum and adjacent iliac bones. Another significant cause of backache is spinal misalignment which will result in a condition called vertebral subluxation. This disorder occurs when spinal motion is restricted or spinal bones (vertebrae) are out of alignment which will in turn cause back related problems.
What can you do to minimize the discomfort?
- You may engage in a safe exercise program which can help strengthen your muscles and prevent discomfort.
- Gently stretch before and after your exercise.
- Swimming, walking and stationery cycling are relatively safe cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women.
- You may also consult your health provider and discuss what exercises are safe for you.
Health and Safety
- Wear comfortable low-heeled shoes and avoid wearing high or chunky heels as this can exacerbate postural imbalances and cause you to fall easily.
- When picking up children or other objects, bend from the knees, not the waist. Try and keep the object close to your body at all times and do not twist when lifting. Avoid picking up heavy objects, if possible.
- Don’t try to sit up from a lying position using your abdominal muscles, bend your knees, turn onto your side and push yourself up with your arm.
- Avoid remaining in one position for too long and remember to unlock your knees when standing.
Pregnancy Ergonomics: Your Bed and Desk
- Sleeping on your back puts 55 lbs. of pressure on your back. Placing a pillow under your knees cuts the pressure in half. Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees also reduces the pressure.
- If you have to sit at a computer for long hours, make your workstation ergonomically correct. Position the computer monitor so the top of the screen is at or below your eye level, and place your feet on a small footrest to take pressure off your legs and feet. Take periodic breaks every 30 minutes with a quick walk around the office.
How can a Doctor of Chiropractic Help?
Chiropractors are specialists in correcting the two main causes of pregnancy related backache – SI joint dysfunction and vertebral subluxations. Chiropractic is a safe and effective method of care for both the mother and baby as it offers a drug free approach to pain reduction. All chiropractors are trained to work with women who are pregnant and will use specific tables that adjust for a pregnant woman's body. They will also use techniques that avoid unneeded pressure on the abdomen.
Written by Dr Paul Fong, D.C. of Vital Health Chiropractic