Most moms-to-be experience back pain during their pregnancies. From conception to delivery, having a baby creates changes in the body that leave the back muscles sore and the spine unstable. Given the dangers of medications to unborn babies, pregnant women are always looking for safe and effective pain management tools.
Causes of Back Pain in Pregnancy
There are two main causes of pregnancy back pain, and both involve postural changes. In early pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is released in the body to relax ligaments and joints in the pelvis. This will make room for the growing baby; it will also create pelvic instability. The pelvis is the seat of the spine, and therefore the spine will become unstable. This means it will be more difficult to keep your spine aligned. Unstable joints in the lower back may become hypermobile and cause irritation.
The second cause of back pain is the shifting of your center of gravity. As the baby grows, your center of gravity moves up from your hips to your stomach. It is difficult for back muscles to support the upper body’s weight, especially since the abdominal muscles in the stomach, which usually work with the lower back muscles, are overstretched and weak. The abdominal muscles begin to stretch even in early pregnancy as the body anticipates the growing baby, especially in women with weak stomach muscles to begin with.
Safe Treatments for Pregnancy Back Pain
Now that you know the causes of back pain during pregnancy – unstable joints, spinal instability and strained back muscles – you can begin to consider what treatments are right for your pain. Most medications are off the table, since they could harm your baby. Tylenol is the one over-the-counter pain medication considered safe by the FDA for consumption during pregnancy. That said, no medication can be considered completely safe during pregnancy.
Some people think that natural, herbal supplements are safe to use at any time. The fact is that herbs are powerful and come with their own contraindications. Some herbs are known to be dangerous during pregnancy, while most others have not been studied in this context. It is generally best to avoid these until research is conducted to assess their safety.
If your back pain is associated with muscle strain, consider investing in a maternity support belt. These come in a number of designs and are relatively inexpensive. One of the highest-rated belts on Amazon.com sells for under $30.00. These belts wrap around the lower back and under the stomach, supporting your baby bump. They may also help with pelvic and spinal stability, since proper posture is easier to attain when the back and stomach are supported. They are adjustable for maximum comfort and to accommodate the various stages of your pregnancy. It is always a good idea to compare prices and read product reviews on sites like Amazon to make sure you are buying a quality product.
Many women experience sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction during pregnancy. These joints are located where the large hip bones meet the sacrum at the base of the spine. Due to the effects of relaxin discussed above, the joints become unstable and cause pain. A trochanter belt can be used to stabilize the joints. These belts are simpler and cheaper than maternity support belts, and may be of more benefit to women whose pain is attributed to the SI joints.
For some women, belts are not enough. Chiropractors often help pregnant women in a couple of different ways. First, they can help to keep the spine properly aligned throughout pregnancy. Second, chiropractors can help to restore normal joint range of motion through mobilization techniques.
There are a few simple things you can do yourself to limit back pain during your pregnancy. Make sure you take frequent breaks from standing. Avoid sleeping on your back. For tense, sore muscles, apply a heating pad to your lower back. Do this with caution; if your SI joints are inflamed, heat could exacerbate your pain.
It is the societal tendency to pop a pill whenever something hurts. While not recommended as a long-term treatment strategy for anyone, it is out of the question for pregnant women. There are a number of safe, effective treatments for back pain during pregnancy.
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