Back pain during pregnancy is a very common problem. Three out of four women experience some degree of back pain during pregnancy. For some women, symptoms may begin before they are showing and last throughout pregnancy. The cause of back pain during pregnancy is related to many factors: change in body posture, hormones that cause the relaxation of connective tissue in the body, poor body mechanics and muscle fatigue. The actual incidence of a pinched nerve during pregnancy is very rare.
So, how do you relieve and manage back pain during pregnancy? Regular aerobic exercise and general conditioning exercise, such as walking, swimming, and bicycling, are the best methods. These types of exercises increase muscle tone and strength, improve endurance and decrease fatigue. Swimming and water aerobics are also excellent exercises for pregnant women. Frequent position changes, including stretching throughout the day, sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs, and using proper posture and body mechanics are also important in maintaining a healthy back. Care should be taken to use the larger muscles of the legs and arms in moving objects to prevent muscle strain. You may strengthen your leg muscles by doing lunges and squats.
If you experience back pain, you may apply moist heat and/or cold packs as needed to decrease pain. You can wear a pregnancy support or SI (sacroiliac) belt to decrease pain and improve posture. Medications, including over-the-counter ones, should be taken only under the direction of your physician or health professional.
If you have persistent back pain which interferes with your overall function, talk with your doctor about a referral to physical therapy and/or to a physiatrist, physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) medical specialist. Physiatrists are physicians who specialize in restoring function and self-sufficiency in persons with disabilities and pain. Remember that most women who experience back pain during pregnancy do not have symptoms after delivery. Back strengthening exercises done throughout pregnancy will help you during labor and delivery and while caring for your growing infant after delivery.