Let’s be honest, pregnancy can wreak havoc on the musculoskeletal system and the back is no exception. During pregnancy, the breasts and belly expand and that extra weight pulls the shoulders and upper back forward. Simultaneously, the lower back begins to curve inward to compensate for the shift in the expecting woman’s center of gravity. As this change occurs, the muscles and ligaments in the lower back become shorter, tighter, weaker, and achy, and women begin to experience back pain.
To prevent or manage upper and lower back pain in pregnancy, be prepared to exert some effort and commitment to your goal of feeling better. Creating a weekly routine that involves some of the suggestions below will put you on the right track. Before engaging in any activity while pregnant, remember to always check with your midwife or OB/GYN first.
Tips to Help Reduce Back Pain in Pregnancy
Sitting up straight with your shoulders back is always the best way to sit but even more so when you are pregnant. To avoid upper back discomfort you must compensate for the forward roll of your shoulders by bringing them back and down. Losing some core strength during pregnancy in unavoidable but good posture will help maintain what you still have. Proper posture also helps your baby align in a better position for birth. “Slouchers” are at higher risk for their babies engaging in a sub-optimal position that can lead to a longer and more uncomfortable labor and birth.
Yoga poses are a perfect antidote for prenatal musculoskeletal symptoms. Chest opening positions, pelvic tilts, and strengthening exercises practiced in yoga classes will help prevent or treat the upper and lower back aches you may experience throughout the course of your pregnancy. Be sure to take a prenatal yoga class so poses are modified to accommodate your growing belly and avoid lying flat on your back.
During pregnancy, the buoyancy experienced while floating on water is divine. Water immersion is the best way to take the weight off your lower back. Backstroke opens your chest and relieves the forward pull on your shoulders. Frog kick will stretch the lower back and give you much needed relief from tight muscles and ligaments. Swimming not only stretches and strengthens your back, it also helps you maintain a healthy pregnancy weight. Remember, gaining more than is recommended for your body mass index will only exacerbate your back issues.
Massage will release tight muscle “knots” or trigger points that may develop from the postural strain of pregnancy. Massage therapists certified to perform prenatal massage are knowledgeable of the typical problem areas for expecting women. Certified prenatal massage therapists are also prepared to accommodate your growing belly with extra pillows to support a side lying position, or they will use a special massage table with an open space for your abdomen.
Acupuncture can help treat back pain and other related discomforts such as pinched nerves, sciatica, and radiating pain. Ask your provider and other pregnant women for recommendations to their favorite acupuncturist, preferably one that has experience working on pregnant women.
Maternity belts can offer excellent low back support and help diminish discomfort. There are several varieties of belts; some just strap around the lower back and belly while others may have straps that also crisscross along the mid to upper back. Ask your provider or physical therapist to recommend the best belt for you based on your symptoms.
Some women find that back pain is worse with their second or subsequent pregnancies. Whether it’s your first pregnancy or not, take time to practice some of these tips to maintain a healthy back. Preventive action takes time and effort but the reward is worth it.