Back pain during pregnancy: 7 tips for relief

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Back pain during pregnancy: 7 tips for relief

Back pain during pregnancy is a common complaint — and it's no wonder. You're gaining weight, you're walking in a new way, and your hormones are relaxing the muscles and ligaments throughout your body. But you don't have to grin and bear it. Often, you can treat — or prevent — back pain during pregnancy. Consider seven ways to give pregnancy back pain the boot.

No. 1: Practice good posture

As your baby grows, your center of gravity shifts forward. To avoid falling forward, you may compensate by leaning back — which can strain the muscles in your lower back and contribute to back pain during pregnancy. Enter the principles of good posture:

  • Stand up straight and tall.
  • Hold your chest high.
  • Keep your shoulders back and relaxed.
  • Don't lock your knees.

When you stand, use a comfortably wide stance for the best support. If you must stand for long periods of time, rest one foot on a low step stool — and take time for frequent breaks.

Good posture also means sitting with care. Choose a chair that supports your back, or place a small pillow behind your lower back. Keep your upper back and neck comfortably straight. Consider propping your feet on a low stool.

No. 2: Get the right gear

Wear low-heeled shoes with good arch support. Wear maternity pants with a low, supportive waistband. You might also consider wearing a maternity support belt. Although research on the effectiveness of maternity support belts is limited, some women find the additional support helpful.

No. 3: Lift properly

When lifting a small object, squat down and lift with your legs. Don't bend at the waist or lift with your back. It's also important to know your limits. Ask for help if you need it.

Proper lifting during pregnancy

To lift correctly, bend at your knees — not at your waist. Keep your back as straight as possible. Use your leg muscles to stand, keeping the object close to your body. ...

Photo of pregnant woman lifting basket from floor 

No. 4: Sleep on your side

Sleep on your side, not your back. Keep one or both knees bent. It might also help to place one pillow between your knees and another under your abdomen, or use a full-length body pillow.

No. 5: Try heat, cold or massage

Use a heating pad to apply heat to your back, or alternate ice packs with heat. Rubbing your back also might help. Better yet, ask someone to rub your back for you or schedule a professional prenatal massage.

No. 6: Include physical activity in your daily routine

Regular physical activity can keep your back strong and may actually relieve back pain during pregnancy. With your health care provider's OK, try gentle activities — such as walking or swimming.

You might also stretch your lower back. Rest on your hands and knees with your head in line with your back. Pull in your stomach, rounding your back slightly. Hold for several seconds, then relax your stomach and back — keeping your back as flat as possible. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions. Ask your health care provider about other stretching exercises, too.

Low back stretch

During pregnancy, the low back stretch can help relieve backaches. Rest on your hands and knees with your head in line with your back. Pull in your stomach, rounding your back slightly. Hold for ...

Photo of pregnant woman practicing the low back stretch 

No. 7: Consider complementary therapies

Some research suggests that acupuncture can help relieve back pain during pregnancy. Chiropractic treatment seems to provide comfort for some women as well. If you're considering a complementary therapy, discuss the options with your health care provider first. He or she may want to confirm that your back pain isn't caused by an underlying condition.

Know when to consult your health care provider

However common, back pain during pregnancy isn't something to ignore. Consult your health care provider if your back pain doesn't respond to the self-care strategies described above. Medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) isn't necessarily out of the question, but it's important to check with your health care provider first.

Also, keep in mind that a low, dull backache might be a sign of preterm labor — and severe back pain or back pain that's accompanied by vaginal bleeding or discharge could indicate an underlying problem that needs prompt attention. If you're concerned about back pain during pregnancy, contact your health care provider right away.

Last Updated: 2011-01-15
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