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The Henderson Chiropractor >Henderson Chiropractic News >    Getting Rid of Low-Back Pain during Pregnancy
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Getting Rid of Low-Back Pain during Pregnancy

You're having a baby! Congratulations! Whether you found out recently, or are getting close to your due date, you are probably going through a lot of physical change and discomfort. Low-back pain is one of the most common afflictions experienced during pregnancy. More than 50% of pregnant women go through a period of low-back pain at some point. The causes are primarily hormonal changes and a shifted center of gravity.

A lot of women are shocked by the amount of back pain they feel very early in their pregnancy. The first hormone that causes low-back pain in early pregnancy is progesterone. This hormone, which is essential to embryo implantation and gestation, softens the ligaments and disks in your back as well. Your upper body is left with less support in the process, which can cause muscle spasms or cramps in your lower back.

The hormone relaxin is increasingly produced in your body as your pregnancy progresses. This hormone is essential to labor and delivery; as the name implies, relaxin relaxes the joints in your pelvis, which enables the baby to pass through the birth canal with ample room. The hormone, however, can make other joints in the body move abnormally, which can cause inflammation and pain.

Low-back pain may also result from the changes caused in pregnancy by your growing fetus. As your uterus expands from the growth of your fetus, your abdominal muscles are pushed beyond their usual limit, in order to accommodate the surplus growth. The effect of this is that your lower back takes on extra weight from your torso, as your abdominal muscles are no longer able to support proper body posture.

Your pregnancy can dramatically change your center of gravity. On average, a woman will gain 7-8 pounds of weight from the baby itself, 1-2 pounds of placenta, 2 pounds of amniotic fluid, and 2 pounds that can be attributed to uterine tissue. The hormone, however, can make other joints in the body move abnormally, which can cause inflammation and pain.

Back pain is a serious issue, and should always be approached as such, regardless of how common it is in pregnancy. Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any low-back pain, to be confident that you are not suffering from an undiagnosed, deeper condition. Many women experience what is called “back labor,” which is just labor felt in the back. This is characterized by a low, dull backache that comes in and out in rhythmic intervals. Severe back pain and fever may indicate an infection, though you may still have an infection without a fever.

There are many things you can do to prevent and manage low-back pain while pregnant:

  • Stretching exercises, such as pelvic tilts.
  • Standing up straight and tall, keeping your shoulders properly down and back, and curling your buttocks under your spine — which is to say, making sure you have good posture.
  • Try not to stand for extended periods of time, though, if that is unavoidable, you can take some of the strain off by elevating one foot on a small object like a box or step stool.
  • If you find yourself sitting, experiment with putting a small pillow behind you, to support your lower back.
  • Do not be tempted to wear high-heeled shoes. Flat shoes with good arch support will be far healthier for your back.
  • For a little extra support, find maternity pants with a wide elastic band that you can wear under the belly.
  • Specially designed girdles and maternity belts may be found at maternity and healthcare stores. Be sure to see if your insurance company covers their purchase, as they often do if prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • When you go to bed, try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs, on a good, firm mattress. This will give your back more support than a softer one.
  • You might try using a maternity pillow, a specially designed pillow for pregnant women that can alleviate some strain in your back.
  • Use your legs to lift objects, and not your back. Avoid altogether lifting items that are heavy.
  • Take big loads in smaller chunks, rather than all at once.
  • Keep fit! If your healthcare provider thinks it's wise, try walking or swimming.
  • You may find relief from a massage provided by your partner or a friend. Tell them to rub or knead gently on the sore spots on your lower back. Consider seeing a masseuse trained in pregnancy massage.
  • Warm your back up and get it relaxed with a heating pad that you set as low as it can go, a comfortable, warm bath, or getting on your hands and knees in the shower, to allow the warm water to strike your lower back.
  • Look into chiropractic care, which is considered safe and may benefit many women — of course, discuss this possibility with your doctor first.
  • Sometimes acupuncture treatment provides relief and comfort — and again, seek the consent of your doctor.
  • Pain relievers whose active ingredient is acetaminophen, including Tylenol, are safe for use by pregnant women.

Naturally, you won't find a “magic cure” that will instantly relieve your back pain, whether you go to a chiropractor or not. Others can't make your decisions for you, as you embark on the path to a pain free life. Since back pain can often be triggered by overt strain or injury, the pain may stretch for weeks before you notice any positive changes to your condition. Bear that in mind when determining the effectiveness of any treatment.

No matter what the individual symptoms of your pregnancy are, make sure to note all the details in your changing physical condition. Notice even small things that would have gone by under normal circumstances — you're in a unique situation and must look out for two right now. You will likely be shocked by the amount of physical change you experience in pregnancy, in spite of the mountains of reading you might have done. This is to be expected. Stay focused on your body, treat low-back pain seriously, and take pleasure in the process of being an expectant mother!

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