Pregnancy: How to Find Low Back Pain Relief

pregnant woman looking at a laptop computerQuestion: I'm pregnant with my first child and due September 21. Everything's going just as it should, but I am starting to have pains in my lower back. I notice it especially at the end of my work day, or when I stand up for more than 20 minutes. What can I do to make the pain go away? I've still got two months to go—I'll take any help I can get.
—Bloomingdale, IL

Answer: Isn't it wonderful being pregnant? Well, except for the back pain.

It's not surprising that women's backs hurt so much while they're pregnant. You're putting a lot of extra weight right up front, and that puts a lot more pressure on your spine as it adjusts to your new body size. Your low back muscles are also working harder as they try to balance out your growing front.

Hormones are another possible cause of back pain during pregnancy. You have many more hormones coursing through your body right now. Relaxin, a hormone, causes your pelvis and low back ligaments to relax so that your body is ready to give birth. However, looser joints are more likely to cause back pain, especially when you factor in the extra weight and other body changes from the baby.

So what can you do? You obviously can't make your body stop producing relaxin during your pregnancy, and you can't take typical pain medications. For the next two months, you'll need to get creative with your pain management.

I recommend pregnancy-specific massages, also called pre-natal massages. Like a regular massage, a pre-natal massage works to release tension in those tight muscles, but a massage therapist trained in pre-natal massage knows exactly where pregnant women need help. Maybe you already have a massage therapist you like—if you do, check if he/she is qualified to do a pre-natal massage. If he/she isn't or if you don't have a massage therapist, ask around for good recommendations.

You can also try gentle exercise to help deal with the pain. Exercise may sound like the last thing you want to do right now with just two months to go. But easy activities, such as walking or swimming, will be good for you.

Swimming is an especially good activity for pregnant women because it isn't weight bearing: you won't feel the added weight of being pregnant. Additionally, swimming is good on your joints, which as I pointed out before, are loosening up to prepare for delivery. Exercise can also help strengthen your low back muscles and make it easier for them to carry your weight.

You probably don't need to be told this, but you should also take it easy. If your back really hurts, lay down for awhile. You can only push through the pain so much, and taking care of yourself right now is important for the baby.

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