It is common for women to experience back pain during pregnancy. Back pain associated with pregnancy is usually caused by either SI joint strain or lower back pain from poor posture.
RELAXIN AND JOINT INSTABILITY DURING PREGNANCY
As a pregnancy progresses, a woman’s body prepares itself to deliver the baby by producing more of the hormone relaxin. Relaxin loosens the ligaments in the hips and pelvis to ease the birthing process. However, relaxin also causes instability in the joints which can lead to back pain. Not only that, a woman’s core muscles usually get weaker during pregnancy. So the back has even less support from surrounding muscles. A great core strengthening program we recommend is this one. It only takes about 20 minutes a day for a week before you see and feel a huge difference.
SI JOINT STRAIN & BACK PAIN DURING PREGNANCY
The Sacroiliac (SI) joint is the joint that connects the spine and the pelvis via the sacrum. The sacrum is the triangular bone at the base of the spine. The SI joint is fairly immobile and thus susceptible to strain. SI joint strain occurs in pregnant women as a result of increased relaxin in the body and the added weight of a growing baby. For this reason, SI joint complaints are quite common among pregnant women. Most SI joint discomfort resolves itself after delivery. Until the baby arrives, the best thing a pregnant woman can do is avoid aggravating the SI joint further.
HOW TO AVOID OVERSTRETCHING THE SI JOINT DURING PREGNANCY
The SI joint’s main function is to transfer the weight of the upper body to the lower extremities. As relaxin makes the SI joint more mobile, the joint becomes strained by certain movements. Unlike muscles, ligaments do not return to their original elasticity once stretched. So it is important for pregnant women not to overstretch their ligaments while they have extra relaxin in their bodies. Overstretching can lead to chronic discomfort/pain post-delivery.
To avoid overstretching the SI joint, pregnant women need to avoid crossing their femur/thigh bone over their midline. This can happen when a pregnant woman is lying on her side in the recovery position. In this shape, a woman has one leg extended and the other leg bent. The bent knee acts as a way to stabilize the body. However, the angle of the leg can pull on the SI joint. To avoid this, place a pillow or other support underneath the knee of the bent leg. Try to level out the leg so that the knee is in line with the hip. This can also be done when performing spinal twists.
LOWER BACK PAIN & POOR POSTURE DURING PREGNANCY
Another common place to experience back pain during pregnancy is in the lower back. This is usually due to the shift in posture that happens as a result of a growing baby. While weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy, excessive weight gain can lead to increased back pain. In addition, the abdominal muscles get weaker to make it easier for the baby to grow and be delivered. Weakened core muscles make good posture even harder to maintain. While this change in posture is unavoidable, sitting/standing up straight will help to alleviate strain on the lower back.
HOW TO MINIMISE LOW BACK PAIN DURING PREGNANCY
Low impact activities such as prenatal yoga and swimming can help to keep the body free from back pain during pregnancy. It is important for pregnant women to avoid starting a strenuous exercise routine when pregnant. That being said, continuing a modified routine that commenced pre-pregnancy is usually okay. Pregnant women should avoid standing for long periods of time as this puts pressure on their low back. Proper footwear can help to meditate the pressure from time spent standing. When lifting, pregnant women need to remember to bend at their knees and use the strength of their legs to do the work. It is more beneficial for pregnant women to stay active during pregnancy than to be sedentary. For a top-notch Prenatal Yoga DVD by expert Julie Schoen, click here.
While back pain may be unavoidable for many pregnant women, being aware of how to minimize back pain will help to make a pregnancy much more comfortable. Avoiding strain on the Si joint and being mindful of good posture may seem like overly-simple preventive measures. However, these easy to address factors will have a lasting effect on your back both during and after pregnancy. A happy back means a happy mom!