Back Pain During Pregnancy: Causes, Relief, & Prevention
So much about our bodies change as we go through the pregnancy journey, which results in increased load on our spine, through weight, gravitational changes, hormones, weakened core, and enlarged breasts. But what can we do to avoid or alleviate back pain in pregnancy?
We know that staying active is key to minimising both excessive weight gain and maintaining good strength and range of motion. The WHO recommendation for exercise in pregnancy is actually the same as a non-pregnant woman of the same age - 300 mins of moderate activity per week!
We often blame hormones, particularly Relaxin, for our niggles, but we know that relaxin actually peaks at around 12-16 weeks in pregnancy, and the incidence of back pain is highest from week 18 onwards – so perhaps we need to look further than our hormones. Relaxin is responsible for a degree of softening of our ligaments, to allow for childbirth, but I want to reassure you that your pelvis isn’t inherently “unstable”, and so we want to move away from thinking and talking about it in this way. We know that there are many factors that can contribute to back pain in pregnancy including stress and job dissatisfaction.
Staying active can help to reduce the incidence and severity of back pain, and can help with both the physical and emotional/psychological factors as well. Yoga, swimming, prenatal pilates and light functional strengthening exercises are the key types of exercise that can help to prevent and alleviate back pain in pregnancy, and should be included in your weekly routine. Other ways to reduce back pain are:
- Wearing supportive shoes (and avoiding high heels)
- Avoiding prolonged sitting, changing from sitting to standing or taking regular standing. Walking breaks if you have a sedentary job
- Doing some simple postural + functional strengthening exercises to improve posture
- Wearing support garments + a supportive bra (like our Gazelle Nursing Bra + Ultimate Nursing Bra)
- Sleeping with a pregnancy pillow, like the belly bean, or at least a pillow between your knees to assist in neutral pelvic and spinal alignment
- Addressing any concerns you have around work, returning to work + having a plan in place
- Addressing any concerns you have around childbirth, courses that encourage you to take control of your birth choices such as hypnobirthing and calm birthing can’t come highly enough recommended.
Some discomfort is par for the course as our body adapts and grows to housing another human being, but staying positive, active, making plans around work and birth can be amazing for a back pain-free pregnancy.