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Pregnancy can cause back pain but it does not have to be a burden


Can pregnancy cause back pain?

The changes to the body with pregnancy can cause back pain. The pain can come from a number of reasons which include changes in body weight, the chemicals in your body, and stress. Back pain history and how your body changes all play a part in the development of back pain. Back pain is common and about 50% of women will experience some type of back pain during and/or after their pregnancy.


Can the weight gain with pregnancy cause back pain?

Women typically gain 25 to 35 pounds with pregnancy and if you do not exercise your body may not respond well to the extra weight. Your body has to carry around the weight and it places extra stress on the structures of the spine. Your body position also changes with pregnancy. This causes muscles to stretch and expand which causes weakness of the muscles which can contribute to back pain. The weight change causes a change in your posture and puts extra stress on areas that do not usually take stress for as long a period as they do during pregnancy. These changes lead to back pain which you can prevent or limit with exercise before and during pregnancy.


Can hormonal changes during pregnancy affect back pain?

Pregnancy causes changes to your hormone levels which include relaxin. This hormone is necessary for childbirth as it allows ligaments and joints to move more. This hormone is not specific to the pelvis however and can contribute to an increase in irritation of the spine. When the ligaments and joints are not as tight around the spine the muscles have to make up for it. Without preparation before pregnancy or if you decrease your activity level with pregnancy you may find that your body does not do a good job controlling the spine which leads to pain.


Can my stress affect my back pain?

As wonderful as having a child is pregnancy and after childbirth contributes to an increase in stress levels. Whether it is concerns about raising a child, loss of sleep, or any other type of stress in your life your body will experience more pain. This is a normal healthy response to stress but when the pain affects our lives we need to do something about the stress. If you experience an increase in your stress level during or after pregnancy you may want to seek additional support. Psychologists are an excellent resource and can help you manage your stress levels which will help reduce or eliminate your pain.



Side sleeping during pregnancy is the best position


What position should I sleep in?

The best position according to the mayo clinic and the american pregnancy association is on your side. Keep a pillow between your legs with your legs and knees bent. A pillow under your abdomen can help with support and comfort as well. Often times people need multiple pillows to help them find a comfortable position. Most people find it uncomfortable or impossible to sleep on their stomach as their belly grows. Back sleeping can place increase stress on the spine as the body changes which may cause pain at night or the next day. Your body will likely favor side sleeping and pillows are a key to comfort.


How common is back pain with pregnancy?

Back pain is the most common musculoskeletal complaint of pregnant women. This can be pain in the pelvis, hip, glutes, or low back itself. All areas can contribute to low back pain later as well. Most studies estimate that 50 percent of women will have some type of low back pain while pregnant. This means that preparation before pregnancy and strategies while pregnant are key to limit occurrence and reduce the intensity. At Ascend we can help set you up with a program to prepare your body for pregnancy as well as help you during the process if pain does arise.


Can an epidural injection cause back pain?

More than 50% of women in the US choose to have an epidural with pregnancy. The side effects do include temporary or permanent nerve damage and infection, but there is no evidence that says people that have epidurals at the time of childbirth have more back pain than people who do not. Common side effects are drop in blood pressure and fever which occurs in 14 and 23 out of 100 people respectively. Headache is the primary negative effect that occurs in 1 out of 100 people who have an epidural which may require follow up treatment.



Even after childbirth you can still have back pain


What causes back pain after child birth?

Back pain after child birth can come from a number of reasons. This can be due to the trauma of childbirth or the changes to your body with pregnancy. You can also have an episode of back pain that you would have had regardless of your pregnancy. It takes time to recover from childbirth and pregnancy. This is why health experts recommend 18 months between pregnancies. It is how long it takes for people to recover from the changes to their body. Childbirth cause an overstretch of the muscles and ligaments of the body. This results in people who are more likely to have back pain. Because you pick up a growing baby after childbirth this causes an increase in activity. Some people need extra training to relieve this pain while others in time can expect their symptoms to reduce as their body recovers.


Will the pain go away after the baby is born?

This depends on the reason for your back pain. To determine this you should see a physical therapist who can tell you why you have your back pain and what you need to do to reduce the pain. This will help reduce and eliminate your pain faster. For example if your pain is due to the overstretch and weakness then specific strengthening, muscle control, and changes to how you squat/lift/move can help reduce your pain. If the baby position during pregnancy put pressure on your nerves neural mobilizations may be what you need. Remember back pain is normal and a physical therapist will be able to help guide you in your specific recovery.


Can physical therapy help pregnancy related back pain?

Yes! It has been shown that a program with focus on aerobic activity and resistance exercises while pregnant reduces back pain. People can expect to see a reduction in the intensity as well as limitations that come from back pain when they see a physical therapist for their pain. In a systematic review of treatment PT can decrease pain, improve function, and limit sick leave for pregnancy related back pain. There is minimal support for hands on care and bracing and should only be used on a case by case basis. If you have found yourself with back pain physical therapy can help.


Have other questions on imaging for low back pain? Ask in the comments below!


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