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.
“Pelvic floor dysfunction, what’s that? I have never heard of pelvic floor dysfunction. Sure I have had a few kids, but I doubt that I have any pelvic issues. Pelvic issues only happen to little old ladies, not me”
Does this sound like what is running through your head right now? You are not alone. Many women suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, but are unaware that the symptoms they are experiencing are related to their pelvic floor.
Have you ever experienced any of the follow?
- Bladder Leakage– Whether it be a small drop with a sneeze or a complete loss of urine while on the way to the restroom, bladder leakage is NOT NORMAL. However it is common. One in three women will experience bladder leakage in their lifetime.
- Urgency and Frequency– Do you know where all the bathrooms are in town? Do you urinate more than 7 times a day? Do you constantly feel like you need to pee? Are you getting up at night to pee? If you answered YES to any of these then you are probably dealing with urgency, frequency, and pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Fecal Incontinence– This can come in many forms: inability to control gas, staining or smearing on the underwear, fecal urgency, or complete loss of stool.
- Bladder pain or Burning with Urination– Many women think that they are dealing with frequent recurrent UTIs and subject themselves to countless rounds of anti-biotics only to have the symptoms not go away. The missing factor may be pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Constipation and/or Straining to Have Bowel Movement– We are designed to push to have a bowel movement, but not to strain. Our pelvic floor needs to relax appropriately to let the bowel movement pass We should be having regular bowel movements that are the consistency of soft log.
- Pain with Sex, Tampon Use, or Gynecological Examination– These things are not supposed to be painful. Too many women, “grin and bear it” thinking that pain with sex is just part of it. I am here to tell you that it is NOT!
- Vaginal Heaviness, Bulging, or Feeling of Falling Out– These symptoms are common signs of a pelvic organ prolapse, where one or more of the pelvic organs starts to push into the vaginal canal and cause these symptoms. TOO MANY WOMEN are told that these symptoms are normal after having children and they just need to live with it until the symptoms are bothersome enough that surgery is needed. This is NOT THE CASE for many women. By identifying and working to rehabilitate their pelvic floor dysfunction, many women can alleviate these symptoms.
- Low Back Pain, Abdominal Pain, or Pelvic Pain– Many women are surprised to learn that their low back pain may be caused by pelvic floor dysfunction. The pelvic floor is part of our core support system, so if it is not working appropriately then we can get extra stress and strain on our low back, abdominals, or hips.
- Difficulty Starting Urine Stream or a Hesitant Urine Stream– We were not designed to push to pee, but many women feel like they need to push to get the urine to come out.
- Inability to ‘Kegel’– A kegel exercise is the generic name for a pelvic floor muscle contraction. Contracting the pelvic floor prevents urine or feces from escaping. Research has shown that over 40% of women think they are doing a Kegel exercise correctly, but they are not.
If you answered YES to any of the above then you may have pelvic floor dysfunction. The National Institutes of Health found that pelvic floor disorders affect 10% of women ages 20-39; 27% of women ages 40-59, 37% of women ages 60-79 and nearly 50% of women over 80.
If you have experienced any of the 10 signs listed above you are a perfect candidate to explore the possibility of your pelvic floor being the cause or a contributing factor.
Remember there are treatment options for you! Don’t suffer and compromise your quality of life when the treatment is so easy! If you believe you or someone you know may be dealing with
pelvic floor dysfunction, call our office at 636-225-3649 and
we will help you determine your best treatment options.