Relieving Back Pain During Pregnancy
by Jennifer Waldroup
It’s often the little things that you do throughout the day that can contribute to pain and discomfort--or health and relaxation.
Pregnancy and childbirth is one of the most amazing things that can happen in a woman’s lifetime. When your child begins the growing process and your body begins to change to accommodate that growth, low back pain may occur. That can take away from the joy and excitement that you should experience. As a doctor of chiropractic and a mother, I would like to share some ways to eliminate or manage low back pain during this awesome event.
Why is there low back pain during pregnancy?
When a woman becomes pregnant, her body will begin to go through many different changes. One of those changes is hormonal. Relaxin is one of the hormones that will increase during pregnancy. Relaxin allows the ligaments to "relax" and soften so that the pelvis can spread to accommodate the baby. While doing its job, however, the relaxin can also allow bones to move and shift in the wrong direction, thus causing impingement on the nerves that exit the spinal canal. This can cause irritation to the tissues around, above and below that area.
The shifting that occurs from relaxin release can also be one factor that contributes to intrauterine constraint. This is a condition that obstructs normal movement of the fetus during development and can prevent the fetus from attaining a head down vertex position. The obstruction is caused by a subluxation (misalignment) of the pelvic bones. There are several ligaments that help to anchor the uterus to the frame of the body. When the bones move out of place, torsion (twisting and pulling) occurs on the ligaments. This can actually decrease the space that the fetus has to move and flip around. Breech babies can result from intrauterine constraint.
During pregnancy it is also important to take a look at posture and lifestyle habits. Sitting slumped over a computer or slouched in front of the television for extended amounts of time will contribute to spinal misalignment. Kicking back in a recliner chair puts the body in a "V" position which cramps the baby’s space and can cause subluxation of the spine and pelvis. Lifting and moving things improperly can also cause an inflamed low back, as can sleeping on couches, futons and waterbeds. These are just a few examples of poor posture habits that can contribute to low back pain, especially during pregnancy.
Another thought to consider is the additional weight that a woman will be gaining as her baby grows inside. Don’t get me wrong, it is necessary to gain some extra weight during pregnancy. However, this additional weight pulls the center of gravity forward, forcing the low back to accommodate for the extra weight.
Stress and Other Factors
Lastly, let’s not forget the stress factor. Stress is considered one of the major contributing factors for 75% of all diseases! High amounts of stress can raise blood pressure and decrease oxygen flow to the baby. Sometimes a preexisting condition such as trauma, illness or surgery, can cause an onset of low back pain during pregnancy. Bone misalignment along with poor posture, bad ergonomics and excessive weight gain can cause long lasting low back pain and problems during pregnancy. When stress is added to the mix, it may seem impossible to pinpoint the problem.
How can we manage low back pain during pregnancy?
Now that we have considered what might be contributing to low back pain during pregnancy, let’s take a look at options for management of that pain. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:
Keeping your spine and pelvis aligned using chiropractic adjustments are, in my opinion, the best way to manage low back pain. During pregnancy it is especially important to keep the bones of the pelvis aligned correctly, not only to manage low back pain but also to help prevent intrauterine constraint. If your baby is already in a breech position, the Webster Technique is a safe, gentle chiropractic method of detecting and correcting the bones that are involved in the intrauterine constraint.
Massage therapy is a great way to release muscle tension and stress. Gentle massage techniques will also help promote increased circulation and combat fatigue.
Exercise is important in promoting a healthy pregnancy. Movement keeps the blood flowing and keeps the joints lubricated. Yoga, swimming, walking and pre/post natal exercise classes will help to control low back pain during pregnancy. Exercise and a well balanced diet will also help to prevent excessive weight gain in pregnancy.
Here are a few additional things to consider about posture and daily activities:
- Avoid wearing high heels. Wearing heels greatly changes the center of gravity and puts more strain on your low back.
- Sleep on your left side with pillows between your legs and just below the belly. The fetus needs some support so the weight of your belly doesn’t pull your spine out of alignment while side sleeping.
- Squat down to pick something up verses bending over. If something is awkward or too heavy to pick up, ask for assistance.
- Get plenty of rest. Elevating your feet will help to release some strain on your back and will to alleviate swollen feet and ankles.
What we know now…
It’s often the little things that you do throughout the day that can contribute to pain and discomfort--or health and relaxation. Paying attention to how you sit, stand, work, sleep and function in your daily activities will help keep low back pain under control. Keeping your spine aligned with regular visits to the chiropractor and using gentle massage therapy and exercise will greatly reduce your low back pain so that you can enjoy your pregnancy. Please remember to always talk with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.
You are the single most important thing that stands between your baby and the outside forces of this world. Do all that you can to nurture and protect that beautiful life growing inside you!