Is Pregnancy Causing My Low Back Pain or Is It Something Else?

Question: I'm a 29-year-old woman in my second trimester with my first child. I've had low back pain for several years, and I've never actually received a diagnosis. What could be wrong with me, and how do I make my back pain go away? I'm worried about my health and the health of my baby.
—Frankston, TX
Torso of pregnant woman sitting on fit ball with backacheAnswer: Your concern about your health and the health of your baby is extremely valid, especially because you had low back pain before you were pregnant.

Although I can't officially diagnose you with a spine condition unless I see you as a patient in my office, a combination of things—including your pregnancy—may be causing your low back pain.

There are a variety of causes of low back pain—having a spine condition (eg, a herniated disc), getting older, daily life, injuries, and obesity are just some of the things that can be contributing to your low back pain. Add pregnancy to this list of causes, and your low back pain can feel is if it's spinning out of control.

Your pain can be magnified thanks to a variety of factors. For example, let's say you were overweight before you became pregnant, and that extra weight was contributing to your low back pain. But during pregnancy, your growing belly can put even more pressure on the intervertebral discs, joints, muscles, and ligaments of the spine.

Also, hormones released during pregnancy can magnify your low back pain. In fact, the hormone relaxin causes your pelvis and low back ligaments to become more flexible (in preparation for delivery), which can lead to low back pain because it can make you more prone to injury.

Know that a combination of these factors can be causing your low back pain. But it's best to discuss all of your possible low back pain causes with your primary care doctor and your obstetrician/gynecologist, so that they can accurately diagnose you and create a treatment plan for you during pregnancy—and even long after you have the baby.

Low Back Pain Treatments During Pregnancy
There are several treatment options for low back pain. However, now's not the time to be experimenting with pain medications or other back pain treatments that can have a negative impact on your health and your baby's health.

The main goal when it comes to managing low back pain during pregnancy is safety.

Here are 3 safe ideas for managing low back pain during pregnancy:

  • Prenatal massage is used to relax tense back muscles and to reduce stress. Find a massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage.
  • Gentle exercise, such as walking and yoga, not only helps you manage low back pain, but it can also promote an overall feeling of wellness. If you have experience doing yoga before pregnancy, try a prenatal yoga class during pregnancy.
  • Physical therapy can help decrease your low back pain by strengthening your muscles. Work with a physical therapist that has experience working with pregnant women.

As always, have a discussion with your doctor about all of your treatment options to control low back pain while you're pregnant.

In general, it's not a good idea to start a new exercise program when you're pregnant. However, if you had a regular exercise routine before you were pregnant, then you can safely continue to follow it, but you may have to make modifications as your body changes.

After the baby is born, you and your doctor can re-evaluate your treatment plan for low back pain. But regardless of your treatment plan, you should still continue to maintain a healthy weight by eating healthy and exercising regularly to prevent your low back pain from getting worse.