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Denver Chiropractor >Denver Chiropractic News >    When Pregnancy Causes Low-Back Pain
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When Pregnancy Causes Low-Back Pain

You're having a baby! Congratulations! You may have just found out, or be nearing your due date. Regardless, you are most likely experiencing many physical changes and discomforts. Low-back pain is quite prevalent in women during all stages of pregnancy. It so happens that more than half the population of pregnant women experience low-back pain for some time in their pregnancy. The causes are primarily hormonal changes and a shifted center of gravity.

It can come as a shock to women that they feel back pain early in their pregnancy. The hormone progesterone is the root of this early pregnancy low-back pain. This hormone, which is essential to embryo implantation and gestation, softens the ligaments and disks in your back as well. The process decreases the support provided to your upper body, which can cause muscle spasms and cramps in your lower back. Relaxin, another hormone your body produces, is produced in greater abundance as your pregnancy progresses. This hormone is essential to labor and delivery; as the name implies, relaxin relaxes the joints in your pelvis, which enables the baby to pass through the birth canal with ample room. On the other hand, it can cause other joints in your body to move abnormally, leading to inflammation and pain.

The growing fetus contributes to low-back pain by causing a number of changes. As your uterus expands from the growth of your fetus, your abdominal muscles are pushed beyond their usual limit, in order to accommodate the surplus growth. As a result, your abdominal muscles cannot help to support good body posture, instead transferring the additional weight from your torso to your lower back. Your center of gravity undergoes significant change throughout your pregnancy. On average, a woman will gain 7– 8 pounds of weight from the baby itself, 1– 2 pounds of placenta, 2 pounds of amniotic fluid, and 2 pounds that can be attributed to uterine tissue. This additional weight shifts the center of gravity to the front of the body, putting additional stress on the lower back.

Though back pain is a common occurrence in pregnant women, you should take it seriously. Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any low-back pain, to be confident that you are not suffering from an undiagnosed, deeper condition. If you experience dull, low backache, particularly that which goes in and out in rhythmic intervals, you might be in labor — women frequently experience “back labor,” or labor that is primarily felt in the back). Severe back pain, particularly concurrent with a fever, may indicate infection.

There are many things you can do to prevent and manage low-back pain while pregnant:

Pelvic tilts and other exercises that focus on stretching.

Maintaining good posture, by standing straight and tall, keeping your shoulders down and back, and tucking your buttocks under your spine. Try not to stand for extended periods of time, though, if that is unavoidable, you can take some of the strain off by elevating one foot on a small object like a box or step stool.

When you sit down, try placing a small pillow to support your lower back.

Stay away from high heels! Instead, wear flat-soled shoes with proper arch support.

For a little extra support, find maternity pants with a wide elastic band that you can wear under the belly. Check with maternity and healthcare stores for maternity belts, or girdles that are specifically designed for pregnant women. Oftentimes these are covered by insurance if prescribed by your healthcare provider, so ask your insurance company if this is the case.

At night, sleep on your side, keeping a pillow between your legs. If you can, use a firm mattress that offers more support to your back than a soft one. You might try using a maternity pillow, a specially designed pillow for pregnant women that can alleviate some strain in your back. Try not to lift heavy objects at all. When you do have to lift something, use your legs and not your back to do it. Split up large loads into multiple sections, instead of carrying it all at once.

Keep fit! If your healthcare provider thinks it's wise, try walking or swimming.

See if your partner or friend will help you with a back massage. Have them gently rub or knead the sore spots, or you might try it from someone trained to massage pregnant women. Warmth can also offer some relief. Try: a heating pad set to its lowest setting, a warm bath, or getting in a position in the shower where the warm water hits your back, such as on your hands and knees.

Look into chiropractic care, which is considered safe and may benefit many women — of course, discuss this possibility with your doctor first.

Acupuncture treatment may also be a good choice for you — but remember again to ask your doctor.

Pain relievers with acetominophen, like Tylenol, are safe for pregnant women. Naturally, you won't find a “magic cure” that will instantly relieve your back pain.

Your decision whether or not to live without pain is a long-term commitment, one personal to you as you seek treatment. Remember to be patient as you receive treatment. Since many back problems are caused by distinct strain or injury, it may take weeks for noticeable change to occur. No matter what the individual symptoms of your pregnancy are, make sure to note all the details in your changing physical condition. You must think of your situation in terms of both you and your child, and know that it can't speak up. So don't let anything slide, so to speak. Of course, also realize that your body will undergo surprising, and surprisingly dramatic changes, so prepare yourself, particularly if this is your first pregnancy. This is to be expected. Stay focused on your body, treat low-back pain seriously, and take pleasure in the process of being an expectant mother!