Written by Maxi Schonteich, IMI osteopath and pain expert
Creating new life isn’t easy. During pregnancy, your body undergoes huge changes, rapidly, causing symptoms like back pain.
Back pain is common throughout pregnancy, but particularly in the final trimester. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent and relieve back pain.
First, let’s examine the key causes.
Causes of back pain during pregnancy
Hormonal changes cause ligaments (the connective tissues between bones and cartilage) to become laxer, especially around the pelvis and lower back. This change is needed to prepare the pelvis for the baby’s passage through the birth canal.
However, when ligaments become laxer, our muscles work harder to maintain joint stability. The resulting muscle fatigue is a common cause of back pain.
As your uterus expands to make way for your baby’s growth, it can shift your centre of gravity causing the muscles in your back to work harder to maintain balance.
Your growing baby is heavy! As they increase in weight, it causes more tension in your pelvis and lower back, resulting in pain.
Tips to prevent and ease back pain
- Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity strengthens your back and pelvic muscles to withstand changes in gravity and weight. Strengthened muscles are more resilient and less likely to be fatigued.
Walking, swimming, and pregnancy-friendly Pilates are excellent and safe ways to move your body.
- Stretching and strengthening
Prenatal Yoga is an excellent way of relieving back tension while promoting relaxation. While you can sign up for a local yoga class, here are a few stretches you can try at home:
Stand straight against a wall with your feet hip-width apart. Engage your abdominal muscles and tilt your hipbones towards the ceiling to flatten your lower back against the wall. Repeat ten times
Get on your hands and knees, placing your hands right underneath your shoulders, and your knees hip width apart. Take a breath in while looking up at the ceiling. If it feels comfortable to you, you can softly drop your belly towards the floor, creating a soft arch in your back. Hold for a few seconds.
While exhaling, round your back towards the ceiling while dropping your head between your shoulders. Gently hold this position. Repeat.
- Complementary approaches
A significant contributor to back pain is stress and mental tension. That’s why relaxation techniques like breathing and meditation help ease muscle tension and back pain.
Other alternative treatments, like massage and osteopathy can also relieve tension and pain during pregnancy.
Osteopathy is safe and gentle, even during pregnancy. Osteopaths are also licensed and registered clinicians who have deep knowledge about the anatomy and how to support your body during pregnancy.
If you opt for a massage, make sure that your masseuse is trained in prenatal massage- as not all are. Studies show that complications from massage are unlikely, but possible, especially if your pregnancy is high risk. Make sure to consult your doctor or practitioner before having a massage.
During a prenatal massage, you should be lying on your side and your masseuse should take particular care when massaging your legs, belly or pressure points.
- Sleep position
With a growing baby in your belly, sleep can often present issues.
My recommended sleeping position is lying on your side, with both knees bent and a pillow between them. Placing an additional pillow under your belly can also help give your back a break through the night.
- Avoid wearing heels
Wearing comfortable shoes during pregnancy is essential.
Heels change muscle tension throughout the legs and lower back, adding additional tension around your buttock and lower back area. Opting for flat comfortable shoes will ensure that your back thanks you later.
- Use hot or cold packs.
You might find applying hot or cold packs to the sore area soothing. Experiment with what works best for you.
Why osteopathy during pregnancy?
Osteopathy is a gentle practise which can be adapted to meet your specific needs during pregnancy.
It can help resolve any aches and pains you may be experiencing, while boosting your circulation and helping maintain healthy blood pressure.
Osteopathy is completely safe for you and your baby.
When should I see a healthcare provider about my back pain?
Back pain usually eases after giving birth. Contact your healthcare provider or osteopath if you experience back pain that lasts longer than two weeks during pregnancy.