• Adriana Ramirez

Low back pain during pregnancy and how to treat it.

Updated: Oct 21

Low back pain is a common complaint among pregnant women. Around 50% of pregnant women experience low back pain, which affects their work, daily activities and sleep.


According to research, 5% of pregnant women are unable to work due to low back pain. If you’re pregnant and suffer from low back pain, this article will show you how to reduce your pain and allow your body to meet the physical demands of pregnancy.



What are the main causes?


During pregnancy your body undergoes significant changes, and several mechanisms may cause low back pain:


Biomechanical changes

The curvatures of your spine increase during pregnancy, placing pressure on your neck, hips and lower back.


Weight gain

Your spine supports most of the weight you‘ve gained during your pregnancy.


Increased bodily fluid

Fluids account for up to a third of your total weight gain during pregnancy. The veins of your lower back don’t always manage to keep up with the increased workload, causing distension, which is when your veins swell due to increased blood inside them.


Hormonal changes

Among the various hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, your body’srelaxinlevels are increased. The hormone relaxin increases flexibility, especially in your pelvic ligaments. This allows your pelvis to expand and accommodate for your baby. However, relaxin also weakens the tissues it affects, increasing the risk of sacroiliac and lumbar ligament strains.


Chronic back pain

Women who suffer from chronic back pain before pregnancy are at an increased risk of back pain during pregnancy.


Pre-pregnancy fitness

Research shows that women who exercised regularly before pregnancy are less likely to experience low back pain during pregnancy.



Symptoms


During pregnancy, back pain often exhibits certain characteristics:

  • Increased back pain when lying on your back

  • Increased back pain when standing

  • Pain in one or both buttocks

  • Sciatica


You should seek immediate medical attention if your back pain is severe, or if you experience any of the following symptoms:


  • Severe abdominal pain

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • An increase in your usual amount of vaginal discharge

  • Severe headache

  • Swelling in your hands, feet or face

  • Fever

  • Visual problems

  • Foul smelling urine, or urgent/frequent urination

A complete list of pregnancy-related danger symptoms can be obtained from your doctor.


Diagnosis


Your physician will ask you various questions and perform a physical examination. If necessary, you’ll be referred for further investigations, such as ultrasound.


Treatment


Due to undesired effects of conventional pain medication, alternative medicine is generally preferred in the management of pregnancy-related low back pain. The following holistic treatment options have been shown to provide pain relief among pregnant women who suffer from low back pain.

  • Acupuncture In Chinese medicine the body’s viewed differently as in the west. Rather than focusing on anatomical abnormalities, acupuncturists aim to balance energy by inserting small needles into various locations. A study at the Cochrane Collaboration, London, revealed that acupuncture significantly reduces pregnancy-related low back pain. Over 4000 patients were observed in the study.

  • Manual therapy Pregnancy places stress on your muscles, tendons and ligaments, especially those in the lower back and pelvis. Manual therapy focuses on reducing physical stresses, improving blood circulation and re-aligning your spine and pelvis. Many studies show that massage, chiropractic spinal manipulation and osteopathic manipulative therapy are safe and effective options for relieving low back pain during pregnancy.

  • Yoga Yoga strengthens the body, increases flexibility and improves overall health. The Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies published research that showed yoga helped to reduce back and leg pain associated with pregnancy. Furthermore, the study demonstrated that depression and anxiety were decreased among pregnant women who do yoga.

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Aside from the benefit of reduced low back pain during pregnancy, the above options offer many advantages, both to you and your baby. Acupuncture treatments can help reduce stress in pregnancy and can also soften the cervix in preparation for labor. A study shows that regular acupuncture treatments during pregnancy, were found to be effective in reducing the rate of labor inductions, reducing the use of Oxytocin which has recently been found to have adverse effects on birth outcomes.



Sources

1. KatonisP, KampouroglouA, AggelopoulosA, KakavelakisK, LykoudisS, MakrigiannakisA, and Alpantaki, K (2011). “Pregnancy related low back pain”. Hippokratia15(3): 205–210

2. Oswald C, Higgins CC, Assimakopoulos D(2013). “Optimizing pain relief during pregnancy using manual therapy”. Can Fam Physician59(8):841-2.

3. Pennick V, Liddle SD(2013). “Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy”. Cochrane Database Syst Rev

4. Field T, Diego M, Hernandez-Reif M, Medina L, Delgado J, Hernandez A(2012). “Yoga and massage therapy reduce prenatal depression and prematurity”. J Bodyw Mov Ther 16(2):204-9.

5. Neri, I, Pignatti, L, Fontanesi, F, Facchinetti, F(2018). “Acupuncture in Postdate Pregnancy Management.”. Elsevier B.V.

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