It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that back pain is the #1 most frequent complaint during pregnancy. What you may not realize, though, is that there are actually different types of back pain, and understanding what type of pain you have is the key to appropriately addressing it – and getting some relief!
Lower back pain, one of two primary back pain types during pregnancy, is defined as pain felt in the lumbar area only. This is the area in your lower back where your spine curves inward toward your abdomen (below your bra line and above your hip bones).
What causes it: As your belly grows, it tends to tip your pelvis forward and essentially pull your back into an excessive lower back arch, which puts a great deal of pressure on your back.
How to prevent or treat it: The following tips can help prevent and/or soothe lower back pain:
- Strengthen your inner abdominal and glute muscles! These muscles are responsible for supporting your back, and helping you resist that lower back arch. Practice Belly Breathing & TVA holds for your inner abdominal muscle (your TVA), and perform Floor Bridges to strengthen your glute muscles.
- Watch your posture: If you notice yourself sitting or standing with that arch in your back, try to correct for it by tucking your tailbone under a bit. The goal is to make sure the bottom of your ribcage is in line with your hip bones when sitting and standing.
- Avoid slouching, and use good back support: Slouching also places excess strain on your back, so practice sitting tall with your feet flat on the floor and the bottom of your rib cage in line with your hip bones. If you sit for long periods of time -- like at work -- it is best to set your chair up with proper back support to help you stay upright, yet comfortable.
- Keep weight gain in check: Excess weight puts more strain on the back.
- Wear proper footwear: Both high heels and no heels put increased strain on your back. It is best to wear either a 1-inch heel, or cushioned rubber sole shoes with good arch support, to keep your body in proper alignment.
- Sleep on a firm mattress: Or, if you don’t want to invest in a new mattress, you can try placing a board under your current mattress. Another option is to invest in a pregnancy body pillow (at least 5 feet long) to help minimize stress along the back during sleep.
- Perform gentle stretches: Gentle mobility exercises to release tension in the lower back can provide some temporary relief. The common “Cat/Cow” pose is a great exercise to relieve low back tension. To perform, go into the all 4s hands and knees position,and then inhale as you arch your back slightly, and exhale as you slowly round your back up.
- Use cold or warm for soothing: If back pain is bad, try applying an ice pack on your lower back in 10-15 minute increments. Taking a warm bath can also help. Just ensure the water is not too hot, especially during the first trimester, as you must avoid getting your body temperature over 102° F.
- Consider a massage, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture: All these treatments have the potential to provide tremendous relief. Just ensure the professional is certified to work with pregnant women, as this does require special training.
Written by Brittany Citron, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, and a pre/postnatal exercise specialist. She is also the founder of PROnatal Fitness, which offers prenatal and postpartum group fitness classes, personal training, and Diastasis Recti rehabilitation — all developed with input from experts in the fitness, medical, and healthcare fields. Brittany lives in Manhattan with her husband and 3-year old son, and a little girl on the way!