Understanding lower back pain during pregnancy
Prenatal lower back pain is a condition that causes pain in the lower back during pregnancy, usually during the second half. LBP typically occurs at the sacroiliac joint. The sacroiliac joint is found where your lower spine meets the pelvis, and there are two of them. Unlike most joints, the sacroiliac joints have a low range of motion, suiting its main function. The sacroiliac joints stabilize and support your pelvis, absorb impact from walking or running, and transmit the weight of your upper body to your legs. Lower back pain during pregnancy can be frustrating to live with, as it could inhibit crucial function of the sacroiliac joints and increase the challenge of pregnancy. However there is hope in relieving the pain, and it is crucial to understand how pregnancy causes this condition.
What causes lower back pain during pregnancy?
Generally, lower back pain is connected to normal growth of the baby during healthy gestation. This causes a variety of changes to the body that lead to lower back pain.
Change in Weight
Although weight gain is different in every pregnancy, the range of healthy weight gain during pregnancy usually lies between 25 and 35 pounds. This weight puts pressure on blood vessels in the pelvis and lower back, and the spine is tasked with supporting this extra weight, making it common that lower back pain occurs during pregnancy.
Change in Posture
Pregnancy causes a variety of changes in the body, such as abdominal growth and weight gain, which cause changes in posture. The spine and the back have to compensate for such rapid change possibly causing lower back pain.
- Center of Gravity
Another effect of a growing uterus is a change in the center of gravity. Your center of gravity is typically 2 inches below your navel, however during pregnancy the center of gravity moves higher and further out, due to abdominal growth. This change puts more tension in your back muscles, as they have to work harder to ensure that you maintain your balance and don’t fall forward.
This change in the center of gravity can also cause people to lean back to improve their balance, which adversely causes more strain on the lower back as it has to support more weight, and exacerbates LBP.
Another cause of the change in posture that causes lower back pain during pregnancy is alignment. Abdominal growth and weight gain can lead the pelvis to tip forwards. Your posture follows suit and creates an excess arch in your back. This posture aggravates LBP as it compresses the tissue in your lower back, causing tightness and discomfort.
Change in Hormones
In order to prepare for birth, your body produces a hormone called Relaxin, which relaxes ligaments in the pelvic area to relax and loosens joints. The same hormone also loosens ligaments which are important for supporting the spine, which causes pain and vulnerability in the spine.
Stress and Fatigue
Stress and fatigue can worsen lower back pain during pregnancy. Muscle tension is highly correlated to stress, and periods of high stress can lead to more severe symptoms of LBP. Additionally, fatigue and exhaustion can cause longer periods of sitting or standing with bad posture, which brings on lower back pain.
Managing lower back pain during pregnancy
Lower back pain from pregnancy may seem unavoidable, but by taking the right precautions and with the help prenatal exercise, it is possible to reduce or prevent all together the pain and discomfort of LBP.
Movement, Exercise and Stretching
Exercising strengthens muscles and increases flexibility, greatly easing symptoms of LBP as the muscles in your back become more equipped to handle the strain of pregnancy. Regular stretching will also aid in alleviating the tension causing by prenatal lower back pain.
- Strengthening Core Muscles
Your core muscles are crucial to stabilizing your lower spine and pelvis. Doing exercises to strengthen your core muscles will better equip your body with the strength it needs to alleviate pain from LBP, and make it easier to maintain your posture in a way that will not affect your neutral alignment.
Doing stretches to improve mobility and flexibility of muscles in the lower back will help relieve strain and tension in the lower back. Check out 9 the most effective stretches for your lower back here:
- Staying active and moving
Another way to help take pressure of the lower back is to keep moving throughout the day. Long periods of sitting and inactivity will increase the weight load on the back, which can increase the pain and tension caused by LBP. Simply moving around in addition to exercise is helpful.
Maintaining good posture and avoiding slouching while resting are good ways to ensure that you are not putting more stress than you have to onto your already tense lower back.
Tips to maintain good posture all the time:
- While sleeping: Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees to alleviate stress on the lower back
- While sitting: Sit with a rolled towel behind your lower back for support, your feet onto something elevated such as a stack of books, keep your back straight and your shoulders back
- While standing: Stand with your hips forward and shoulders back. Avoid leaning back to compensate for abdominal growth, as it put more pressure on your lower spine and pelvis.
Heating and Cooling, Massage and Acupuncture
- Heating and Cooling
Applying cold compresses to the area of discomfort for 20 minutes at a time multiple times a day may help. After 2-3 days, switch to heat.
- Massage and Acupuncture
Acupuncture and massage have been proven to provide short-term relief from LBP
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