PREGNANCY is associated with many changes in the body, resulting in pain and discomfort. A typical pain pregnant women experience is back pain, which sometimes radiates to the buttocks and legs.
Several factors can contribute to back pain during pregnancy, including weight changes, pregnancy hormones, and a shift in posture.
Your stomach grows bigger and bigger during pregnancy to accommodate the developing foetus, resulting in stretching of the abdominal muscles. These muscles work together with the lower back muscles to support the lower region of the spine, and the stretch causes them to weaken, increasing the pressure on the lower back muscles.
Also, the protrusion of the stomach causes the pelvis to shift forward, and most women naturally respond to this by leaning backwards. Although unconscious, this action gradually increases the curve at the lower back and can cause back pain.
Weight gain, a normal part of pregnancy, also contributes to the occurrence of back pain. Women usually gain between 25 and 35 pounds, which increases the pressure on the spine.
The weight of the growing baby and uterus also puts pressure on the vessels and nerves in the pelvis and back, causing pain which can travel down the legs.
Another change which may induce back pain is the release of hormones during pregnancy. An example is relaxin, which is released to relax the pelvic area muscles in preparation for childbirth.
This hormone also causes the ligaments of the spine to loosen, resulting in instability and pain.
Although back pains have been accepted as a normal part of pregnancy, the following tips will help reduce its occurrence
• Practising good posture: proper posture when performing daily activities like sitting, standing, walking and sleeping can reduce the stress on the back.
• Sit in chairs with good support for your lower back. If your chair does not have lumbar support, you can use a small pillow.
• Do not sit or stand for long periods, as this will further increase the stress on your back.
• Avoid lifting too much weight, and ask for help when necessary.
• If you must lift something, do not bend over from the waist; bend your knees instead and keep your back straight as much as you can.
• Avoid wearing high heels and shoes that do not provide enough support.
• Exercise regularly: increase in physical activity will help to strengthen your muscles and increase flexibility. This will reduce the stress on the spine
Physiotherapy management for pregnancy back pain
Physiotherapy during and after pregnancy can help reduce back pain; it also strengthen muscles and improve function.
Your physiotherapist will take you through a thorough examination to identify the cause of your pain.
This will help in developing a treatment programme specific to your needs.
Physiotherapists are also trained to teach the appropriate exercises, positions and movements that will help reduce the pressure on the spine
Talk to a physiotherapist today if you have or know anyone expecting a baby.