As wonderful as pregnancy is, each trimester surely has its challenges. One of the token obstacles of the 2nd trimester is low back pain. According to WebMD, this is a good thing that happens to 80% of pregnant women. The baby is growing! However, this growing “bundle of joy” is probably wreaking havoc on your low back muscles and your sacroiliac joint — where your spine connects to your pelvis. It’s fairly obvious that the additional weight can shift your center of gravity and cause strain on your back muscles and sacroiliac joint. What may not be so obvious is that a hormone called relaxin is responsible for making ligaments looser to aid in the birthing processes. Unfortunately, this includes all ligaments, even those in your back and other joints in your body (knees, ankles, etc).

How can you know what is causing your pain? If you can push on the dimple on either side of your low back and it is tender, then your pain is probably coming from your sacroiliac joint. If you have pain on the muscular sides on your spine and pain is worse with extending or twisting the spine, then it is probably a muscle strain. If the pain feels like it is deep in your back, then it may be from the uterus putting pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the back, or from separation of the abdominal muscles. However, if associated with severe pain, vaginal bleeding or any other symptom, it may be more serious.

WebMD does reassure that low back pain will likely ease before birth if you have never had back problems. In the mean time, here are a few things you can do to take care of your back and sacroiliac joint during pregnancy:

Check with your doctor before following any of these recommendations.

  • Exercise. Walk, ride a stationary bike or swim to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and mobilize your spine. By default, these exercises cause you to twist your spine and sacroiliac joint to prevent these joints, muscles and ligaments from becoming stiff. Twenty to thirty minutes of light to moderate daily exercise will not only help with pain, but is also healthy for you and your baby. Just be sure that you are cleared by your doctor to do so.
  • Heat or Cold. Use what feels the best on your back. Avoid using a heating pad, because this may get too hot. Instead, put rice in a sock or small pillow case and heat in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. Apply this moist heat pack to the area of your back that is tender. For ice treatments, use a bag of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel. Do not apply an ice pack directly to your skin. Apply ice or heat for 20 minutes at a time, as often as you need. Avoid applying to your abdomen!
  • Concentrate on Your Posture. If you did not have good posture before, now is the time to perfect it! Try to avoid slouching as much as possible. When sleeping, try putting a pillow between your knees, which may alleviate some pain. Also, avoid sleeping on your back, as you should be sleeping on your left side as much as possible. Perfect your posture now and you will benefit from developing a habit that you can carry on past pregnancy!
  • Avoid Lifting Heavy Objects. If you are reading this article, now is probably the time to stop lifting heavy objects. This simply causes too much strain on your lower back. If you have to lift, here is how to lift properly. 
  • Perform Low Back Stretches. Regular stretching can surely help your back pain. You should at least perform these stretches twice per day, but three times may be optimal.
  • Resistance Training??? Once you reach your second trimester, I am not so confident that resistance training is the best idea. In researching for this article, even The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) cannot make a firm recommendation:
  • Limited information exists on strength training during pregnancy

    However, if you want… need to weight train, ACOG recommends relatively low weights with multiple repetitions. And you should probably lift the weight in a seated position to prevent abnormal alteration in blood flow. Avoid exercises that are done on your back or exercises that cause you to strain.

  • Alternative Treatments. If all else fails, consider alternative therapies with acupuncture or chiropractic adjustments. Word of caution —be sure that you are being treated by professionals who are experienced in taking care of pregnant clients. Acupuncture in certain areas may cause early contractions!
  • Contact Your Doctor. If pain is severe, or you are concerned the slightest bit, please call your doctor. Your back pain may not be a simple strain or sacroiliac problem. Please do not hesitate!

This article is written as an aid and does not dictate an individual course of treatment. Consult with your doctor before following any of the above mentioned recommendations for optimal safety to you and your baby.

References

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Easing Back Pain During Pregnancy

WebMD: Back Pain in Pregnancy