Low back pain is by far the most common symptom my beautiful mums-to-be are getting relief from through regular massage. At early stages of pregnancy it is usually 8 women out of 10 complaining about lower back pain. The probability of experiencing low back pain is even bigger in third trimester of pregnancy when the fast growing belly is putting extra stress on your joints and muscles.
Today I want to help you understand what is causing low back pain during pregnancy and how you can help yourself to relieve the aching tension in your muscles.
Why do I have low back pain in pregnancy?
Usually you start to notice tension in your lower back and pelvis in around 20 weeks of pregnancy when your uterus is about the size of a melon. Your belly is growing, your center of gravity changes and your hormones are relaxing the ligaments in your pelvis. There are 8 uterine ligaments which suspend the uterus within the abdomen. As your uterus grows these ligaments will be stretched and pulled which can result in pain referring to your lower back, buttocks, groin and sacrum. As the uterosacral ligaments will pull on the lumbar spine, the curvature of your lower back will be increased (increased lumbar lordosis) and your pelvis will be tilted forward.
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Any changes in in the curves of the spine will cause some muscles to stretch and weaken, and some muscles to shorten or tense up. This will lead to imbalance of spine and will cause chronic tension in specific muscle groups and increased strain on joints. Increased lumbar lordosis is usually characterised with tight muscles in your lower back and your hip flexors but stretched and weak muscles in abdominals, glutes (buttocks) and hamstrings.
What can I do to relieve my low back pain?
1. Practice on improving your posture
- Stand up straight and tall
- Keep your shoulders back and relaxed
- Don’t lock your knees
- Tuck your tailbone in
2. When sitting, choose a chair that supports your back (or place a small pillow behind your lower back). Try not to slump when sitting and arch your back as much as is comfortable. Try sitting on a soft or wedge shaped cushion or a cushioned ring.
3. Wear low-heeled (not flat) shoes with good arch support
4. Try using a maternity support belt to take off some weight off your abdomen muscles and back and help to support your pelvic joints5. Avoid strenuous activities that involving bending and lifting. Always bend from your knees and lift things from a crouching position. Avoid twisting movements
6. Use pregnancy/usual pillows between your knees, under your tummy while sleeping
7. When getting out of bed, bend your legs at your knees and hips, roll to your side, use your arms to push yourself up, dangle your legs over the side of the bed
8. Keep active by yoga, pilates, swimming, walking or on stationary bike. Make sure the instructor is trained and acknowledgeable about appropriate exercises in pregnancy when taking classes
9. Do pelvic floor exercises daily:
- Sit and lean slightly forward with a straight back
- Squeeze and lift the muscles as if you are trying to stop a wee
- Hold the squeeze for up to five seconds, relax for up to ten seconds
- Repeat up to ten times, three to four times a day
- Keep breathing while exercising
10. Have a warm bath (adding some Epsom salt to it is even better) or let warm water flow on your aching low back muscles in the shower. Please note that the water cannot be too hot, body temperature water is perfect
11. Have a massage to soothe your tired, aching muscles with a therapist who is trained and experienced in pregnancy massage
12. Try acupuncture with a practitioner who is trained and experienced to treat pregnancy symptoms
13. Some women find that chiropractic care is very helpful for realigning their changed spine in treating low back pain
When to call your doctor?
- • Your back pain is severe, constant, or getting progressively worse, or if it’s caused by trauma or accompanied by a fever
- • You’ve lost feeling in one or both legs, or you suddenly feel uncoordinated or weak
- • You have a loss of sensation in your buttocks, groin, genital area, or your bladder or anus, which may make it hard to pee or have a bowel movement, or, alternatively, cause incontinence
- • You have low back pain in the late second or third trimester. This can be a sign of preterm labor, particularly if you haven’t had back pain before that.
- You have pain in your lower back or in your side just under your ribs, on one or both sides. This can be a sign of a kidney infection, especially if you have a fever, nausea, or blood in your urine