With all of these changes to the body, swelling and discomfort is common. Many women experience pain in their pelvis, legs, feet, shoulders, arms, and even hands.
Of all the myriad sources of discomfort, one of the most frequently reported areas of pain is the lower back.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, 70 percent of women experience lower back pain during pregnancy.
There are several reasons why women experience pain during pregnancy, and these can stem from both physical and psychological challenges. The most common causes of pain include (but are not limited) to:
1. Weight Gain And Postural Changes
Increasing size and weight of the belly creates a significant shift in the woman’s centre of gravity, pulling everything forward. To counter-balance this shift, lower back muscles are required to work much harder to keep the pregnant female upright and stable, leaving this area prone to stress and strain.
In addition, belly-forward positioning also increases the inward curve (lordosis) of the lower back, which also places more compressive load on the joints.
These two primary changes (to muscles and joints) is unfortunately a perfect recipe for increased lower back pain.
2. Hormonal Changes Affecting Ligaments
While the increased elasticity of these ligaments is a good thing - it helps prepare the birth canal for delivery - it also may result in an instability of the joints of the pelvis, leading to irritation of those joints and surrounding soft tissues.
In addition, if the muscles of the lower back may be triggered to overcompensate for this sense of instability, leading to muscle strain, pain and spasm.
3. Stiffness caused by stress and tension
Not to mention, the additional hormones in your body can also cause mood fluctuations and make it harder to deal with the resulting stress.
With an ever-present body-mind connection, stress can easily manifest as pain in the lower back.
Symbolically, the torso (including the lower back) is the primary support area for the rest of the body. Therefore, if the woman is feeling a bit worried about her level of support during/after her pregnancy, or has concerns about her abilities to support a new member of the growing family (or even herself during this entire process), then there is the potential for energetic vulnerability and instability in the area of the lower back.
In addition, the lower back area is home for chakras (energy centres)# 1 & #2, plus important acupuncture meridian channels that, when weakened, can predispose a pregnant (or post-partum) female to sensitivity and discomfort in this area. As if she didn’t have enough to deal with already - a woman needs to also pay attention to her thoughts and feelings to be healthy during her pregnancy!
There are also other concerns about inactivity: studies of women treated with pregnancy bed rest show side effects including muscle atrophy, bone loss, weight loss, decreased infant birthweight and gestational age at birth, to name a few.
Remaining active with low impact workouts can decrease back pain and provide other benefits including:
- Boosting energy levels
- Managing weight gain
- Reducing stress
- Increasing strength and flexibility
- Helping ease labour
As long as you have the “all-clear” from your doctor, try these workouts:
In addition to increasing strength and flexibility, Yoga also helps reduce stress. The breathing techniques can improve awareness, reduce tension, and even make pain at birth more manageable.
Look out for a good prenatal yoga class near you or try an online video. There are some great free videos on Youtube, like the one below.
- It helps to strengthen the diaphragm, allowing you to breath better, increase lung capacity, and feel more calm.
- Increases strength in the pelvis, helping with bladder control and ease during labour.
Check out your local studios to see if they offer prenatal Pilates. And again, Youtube and yogadownload.com both have a vast collection of videos (one example below).
Many women find being in water relaxing and it can help reduce swelling. The water supports the extra weight you are carrying on your body. It can also improve circulation by strengthening your heart.
If you find swimming laps to be a boring form of exercise in the pool, look for a local water-aerobics class for a fun way to stay fit.
2. Improving Your Posture
In addition to a low-impact exercise routine that strengthens back muscles and counteracts the effects of weight gain, you can try these three simple exercises that will help you maintain a strong posture during and after pregnancy.
3. Lifting Things Properly
Lifting an object incorrectly, whether heavy or not, can result in a pulled muscle or even a hernia, both of which will only worsen your back pain.
When lifting objects, do so with proper positioning of the body:
- Bend from the knees, not your waist
- Use your legs instead of your back muscles
- Keep your back straight
- Carry the object close to your body
- Be careful not to twist
- If the load causes straining, don't carry it
- Avoid any jerking or sudden movements.
4. Supporting Your Body While Sleeping
This position may not come naturally to some women. A pillow between your knees helps keep your hips aligned and maintains good posture - leading to less predisposition for back pain.
Hugging the pillow around your head, so that your arm is elevated and your neck and shoulders are in good alignment, also helps take strain off your spine.
A good choice is a C-shaped body pillow which will allow you to maintain optimal sleeping posture without disturbing your belly.
5. Wearing Supportive Clothes and Shoes
Shoes with adequate arch support and cushioning can go a long way in preventing future pain and dysfunction. Suboptimal shoes may upset the alignment of the feet and lower legs, which in turn may alter the dynamics of your lower back and your hip joints.
6. Slow Down
If you haven’t considered it already, pregnancy is a good time to start a meditation practice. Even 5 minutes a day has been proven to have positive results on mental health - before, during and after childbirth!
Look for ways you can savour the present moment. This could be eating slowly, or leaving your phone at home while you visit a friend.
Finally, practicing gratitude at least once a week also has positive effects on mental state by increasing happiness, improving your sleep, and boosting your immune system.
7. Get an adjustment
Chiropractic care is a safe, non-invasive, and drug free method of pain relief and has been proven to help pregnant women by:
- Increasing mobility
- Decreasing morning sickness
- Reducing anxiety
- Improving sleep
- Boosting mood
By helping women keep their body properly aligned, chiropractic care can help women have happier and healthier pregnancies.
Reduce Your Pain
At Back2Health, our trusted team of experts can help align your body. This can play a big role in alleviating pain in your lower back, pelvis, hips, knees and/or feet. We can also help advise you on exercises, stretches and other changes you can make to help ease the physical and emotional challenges during your pregnancy.