Reports show that more than two-thirds of pregnant women experience low-back pain and almost one-fifth experience pelvic pain. Back pain may be experienced during any point of pregnancy, however, it most commonly occurs during the second half. Sometimes the pain so significant that it can interfere with work, daily activities and a good night of sleep. The good news is there are ways to reduce sick leave and the adverse effects during pregnancy. It’s also important to note that there is no link between back pain and pregnancy outcome.
What the Studies Have Confirmed
The US National Library of Medicine published the results of a study taken from the Cochrane Database. Fifteen randomized controlled trials (RCTs) surveyed 1847 women with low-back pain; six examined 889 participants with pelvic pain; and 13 observed 2385 women with both low-back and pelvic pain. The diagnosis was a combination self-reported symptoms as well as clinicians’ interpretation of the results.
- Exercise may decrease low-back pain in pregnant women
- Any exercise improves functional disability and reduces sick leave time more than conventional prenatal care
- Acupuncture or craniosacral therapy reduces pelvic pain during pregnancy
- Manual therapy and awareness through education may also be helpful
As the uterus expands during pregnancy, the woman’s center of gravity is shifted. As a result, the supporting ligaments and muscles begin to stretch out, weakening the abdominal muscles and ultimately altering posture which adds strain to the back.
The extra pregnancy weight from both the mother and the growing baby puts pressure on the joints and spine which has to support that excess weight. The weight of the growing baby and uterus also puts pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the pelvis and back which causes pain.
Millions of different hormonal changes and chemical reactions happen in the mother and developing baby. In preparation for the birth process, the body produces a hormone called Relaxin which loosens the ligaments that attach the pelvic bone to spine. This can cause instability and trigger pain when walking, standing or sitting for long periods of time.
History of Low-Back Pain
Old injuries may resurface during pregnancy, and if the woman has had a history of back, neck or pelvis problems before being conceived, the pregnancy make them worse.
Types of Back Pain
- Lumbar Pain
Occurs in the area of the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back and felt around the spine approximately at the waist level.
- Posterior Pelvic Pain
Felt in the back of the pelvis, deep inside the buttocks, or at the back of the thighs
- Gentle exercises like walking, stretching and swimming (avoid breaststroke)
- Yoga, relaxation classes and mediation
- Massage for temporary relief
- Be mindful of your posture – no slouching
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine using fine needles to stimulate specific points in the body. Some evidence has shown that acupuncture may improve lower-back as well as pelvic pain in pregnancy.
Chiropractic care during pregnancy is one of the most important times for a woman to get treatments. Even before conception, treatments can promote more regular menstrual cycle and optimum uterine function. Chiropractic manipulation of the spine can be safe during pregnancy.
Each women will experience a different degree of pain and discomfort related to lower-back pain. It’s important to try some of these tips and complementary therapies and tailor treatments to each individual’s body’s needs.