Low back pain during pregnancy is very common but it is not normal. Just because your pregnant does not mean you are doomed to experience back pain and there are things that you can do about it.
A recent study surveyed 950 pregnant women. Over 68% of them reported having low back pain. However only 32% of them told their healthcare provider that they were experiencing low back pain. And of those, who did tell their health care provider, only 25% of the health care providers recommended any type of treatment. Many women, unfortunately, are simply told that low back pain is a normal part of pregnancy that they just need to deal with it.
It is not normal, you can do something about it.
One of the main reasons why it’s important for you to do something about it during your pregnancy is that when you are experiencing low back pain during the pregnancy, it does puts you potentially more risks for continued low back pain issues in the postpartum period and beyond.
Low back pain during pregnancy can feel like many different things. It can be pain in the central low back area or maybe it’s more right or left sided. Some women experience the pain more down in their buttocks area, or pain that shoots down the legs. Some women describe it as sharp, stabbing pain and to others, it is more of the persistent dull ache. Some women experience a pins and needles sensation or they might even feel like their legs are getting weak or giving way.
Oftentimes, back pain during pregnancy occurs with different types of movement.
Common movements during which women experience pain include:
- Getting up and down from chairs
- Getting in and out of cars
- Rolling over in bed
- Prolonged sitting or standing
- Lifting kids, laundry, or groceries
- Putting on clothes
What Can you Do if you are experiencing pregnancy back pain?
- Try heat or ice over the painful area for 10-15 minutes at a time. Both heat and ice can help with pain so try each and see which one helps you more. Some people may find benefit by switching back and forth between ice and heat for that 10 to 15 minute period with each.
- Try massage over the painful area. You could ask your partner to give you a massage. If your partner is not available, another option that I recommend is using a tennis ball to massage over the painful area. Sometimes it’s easier to put 2 tennis balls together in a sock and knot off the end of the sock. Then place the tennis ball sock between you and the back of a chair or a wall and rock back and forth over the balls to help release some of the tension in the back.
- Try gentle core muscle activation. One way to protect your back and provide more comfort is making sure that your deep abdominal muscles are still working way that they should be. To correctly activate your deep abdominal muscles try to give your baby a gentle hug with your belly as you exhale. Practice doing this for 10 repetitions at a time. This is also good to do any time before you are going to lift your toddler or get up and down from a chair.
If you try some of these techniques and your not seeing any changes in symptoms this is when you should partner with a specialist. A women’s health physical therapist can help you figure out what is causing your pain, help alleviate the pain, and make recommendations to help you function better. Our goal is to help you have as comfortable and pain free a pregnancy as possible.
Remember the study from the beginning of this article: 68% of women reported having low back pain but only 32% of them told their healthcare providers and only 22% of the healthcare providers recommended any type of treatment. Don’t rely on your healthcare provider to recommend physical therapy to you. You might have to be an advocate for yourself to seek out care that’s going to help you.