Lower Back Pain during Pregnancy Causes & Treatment
Pregnancy comes with a lot of changes. All these changes are controlled by chemical hormones in the female body, progesterone, and estrogen.
During pregnancy, the ligaments naturally become softer and stretched to prepare you for labor. This is what causes lower back and pelvic pain.
Normally, most women will start to experience the symptoms of pregnancy within a few weeks of conception. In some of the cases, the symptoms may be mild and go unnoticed. Others including a backache are quite obvious.
In this topic, we offer an insight into:
- What causes lower back pain during pregnancy
- How to treat and get rid of a backache
- Simple exercises you can use to relieve the pain and
- How you can avoid the pain during pregnancy
Causes of back pain during pregnancy
Pelvic pain and lower back pain are often caused by the different factors and changes that naturally occur in your body during pregnancy.
Early abdominal pain can be startling. Normally, the pain will often begin during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Back pain during pregnancy is normal, it is a healthy symptom that your pregnancy is developing properly. In rare cases, however, the pain can be a symptom of a serious condition that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
Natural causes of back pain during pregnancy
Natural causes of the back pain during pregnancy will include:
- Additional weight during pregnancy adds stress to the back and other weight-bearing structures
- The back pain can also be caused by a change in gravity during pregnancy. The weight is typically carried in the front, it is this change in the center of gravity that causes:
- Muscular imbalances, that create a strain on weight-bearing structures in the body.
- Quick muscles fatigue
- Hormonal surges that cause laxity along the additional weight and change in center of gravity
Sharp lower back pain during pregnancy
As said, the lower back pain will often begin during the 1st trimester of pregnancy. Though the pain is common, in rare cases, the sharp pain could be a sign of a serious condition such as:
Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy. A miscarriage is most likely to occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Warning signs of a miscarriage will include the following:
- Mild to severe back pain worse than normal menstrual cramp
- True contraction that can be painful and repeat every 20 minutes
- Vaginal Spotting
- Fluids or tissue passing through the vagina
In most of the cases, miscarriage cannot be prevented. Proper medical checkup during pregnancy can, however, reduce the risk of having a miscarriage.
2. Ectopic pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the main cavity of the uterus. With a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus.
With an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilization occurs in the fallopian tubes. This is known as tubal pregnancy. In other cases, the pregnancy will occur in the abdominal cavity, ovary or in the neck of the uterus.
Normally, an ectopic pregnancy will not proceed normally. The fertilized egg cannot survive, the growing tissue might destroy the various maternal structure. The pregnancy can be life-threatening when left untreated.
An ectopic pregnancy will often show the following symptoms:
- Severe pain in the pelvis, abdomen, and lower back
- Vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the shoulder and neck
According to the American Pregnancy Association, Implantation of a fertilized egg occurs about six to 12 days after conception. Implantation is the process in which the fertilized egg attached to the lining of the uterus.
Some women will often not notice the signs of implantation. In others, common symptoms will include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Vaginal spotting that is light and resolves quickly
4. Round ligament pain
During pregnancy, as the uterus grows to accommodate the fetus and its surrounding fluid. The tissue that connects the uterus to the abdomen and pelvic area can be stretched causing pain. This pain is what is referred to as round ligament pain.
Round ligament pain often occurs after the first few weeks of pregnancy and more commonly toward the end of the first trimesters. Moving, sneezing and laughing can make the pain worse.
5. Posture change
Normally, as the uterus grows, it places stress and strain on the back. According to the American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists, a woman’s center of gravity changes when the stomach gets larger.
It is this change that makes women lean backward or adopt other poor postures causing soreness in the back.
The back can also be strained from the weight of the uterus. Also, these are common later in pregnancy.
Right side lower back pain
In rare cases, lower back pain may be felt entirely or primarily on the right side rather than spreading evenly across the back.
Understanding the possible causes of the pain and its characteristics can lead to an accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment.
During pregnancy, the lower right back pain will often result from:
- Injury to the muscles and tendons surrounding and supporting the spine
- Diseases affecting the internal organs in the mid-back, abdominal or pelvic regions
- Problem with the spinal structures such as facet joints or intervertebral
In other cases, the pain can be a sign of a serious condition that needs to be attended to as soon as possible.
Some of the serious conditions that might cause the right side lower pain may include the following conditions:
This condition occurs when the appendix, located on the lower right-hand side of the abdomen becomes inflamed or ruptures.
The inflammation may cause sharp, intense lower right back pain and lower right side of the abdomen.
Other symptoms will include nausea, vomiting, and fever. The symptoms may develop suddenly or gradually.
2. Abdominal aortic aneurysm
This refers to the ballooning or rupture of the abdominal aorta. Symptoms will typically include severe, sudden-onset abdominal and low back pain.
Osteomyelitis is an infection of the spine. It is often characterized by significant back pain and with a fever. Other symptoms will include unexplained weight loss, swelling, redness, and tenderness around the spine.
4. Cauda equine syndrome
This condition occurs when the nerve roots exiting the bottom of the spinal canal in the lower back region become compressed and inflamed.
The symptoms of this condition will often vary. Typically, the symptoms will include:
- Some degree of bowel or bladder dysfunction
- Sharp pain
- Weakness, numbness, and tingling in the lower body
Cramping and lower back pain in early pregnancy
Back pain in pregnancy is very common. It is estimated that around 50% to 80% of pregnant women experience some form of back pain and cramping. The pain will often range from mild to acute to chronic.
Normally, the pain will often occur between the 5th and 12th week of pregnancy. Those with pre-existing lower back problems are at higher risk of developing the pain.
There are two types of back pain in pregnancy. Lumbar pain or lower back pain and posterior pelvic pain.
a) Lumbar pain
This kind of pain is generally located at and above the waist in the center of the back. Lumbar pain may or may not be concurrent with pain that radiates into your leg or foot (sciatica pain)
The pain is similar to the lower back pain experienced by non-pregnant women. The pain increases with prolonged postures such as sitting or standing for long or repetitive lifting.
Tenderness present in the muscles of the spine during pregnancy may also prolong the pain.
b) Posterior pelvic pain
Posterior pelvic pain in the back of the pelvis is more prevalent than lumbar pain in pregnancy.
Pelvic pain is a deep pain felt below and to the side of the waistline and below the waistline. Pelvic pain can be experienced on one or both sides.
How do you get rid or treat back pain during pregnancy
When the lower back pain is unbearable, you may want to check with your doctor as soon as possible. Unless you had chronic backaches before you got pregnant, the good news is that your pain will likely ease gradually before you give birth.
There is, however, something you can do to treat and get rid of back pain during pregnancy. You can try the following options:
a) Cold or warm compress
Cold or hot compress your back is one of the ways you can use to relieve and get rid of the lower back pain.
- Start by placing bag of ice on your back
- After 20 minutes, change and place a hot compress (a heated pad)
- Be careful not to apply too cold or too hot compress
b) Simple exercises
Simple regular exercises will help strengthen muscles and boost flexibility. It can also help ease the stress on your spine.
During pregnancy, make sure to walk, swim and do some stationary cycling. Make sure to talk to your doctor and physical therapist.
c) Improve your posture
Using proper posture can also help relieve the pain. For example, sleeping on your side with a pillow between the knees will take stress off your back.
When sitting, place a rolled-up towel behind your back for support. You could also try wearing a support belt.
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine in which thin needles are inserted into the skin.
Studies show that acupuncture can effectively help relieve low back pain during pregnancy. Speak with your healthcare provider before trying this out.
e) Chiropractic adjustments
Chiropractic manipulation of the spine can be very helpful during pregnancy. You may need to talk to your doctor before trying this option out.
This option is more effective for symptoms such as joint pain, backache, and headache.
Exercises to ease a backache in pregnancy
Also, the following exercises can help strengthen the stomach and abdominal muscles and help ease the back pain during pregnancy.
According to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) exercising in water, massage therapy and group or individual back care classes might help ease back pain during pregnancy.
- Start in a box position (all fours) with your knees under hips, hands under shoulder, with your finger facing forward and abdominal lifted to keep your back straight
- Pull in your stomach muscle and raise your back up towards the ceiling, curling your trunk and allow your head to relax gently forward. Do not let your elbow’s lock
- Hold for some seconds then slowly return to the box position
- Be careful not to hollow your back
- You should do this slowly and rhythmically 10 times, making your muscles work hard and moving back carefully.
- When doing this, only move your back as far as you can
Avoiding backache in pregnancy
The severity of lower back pain during pregnancy will often vary from one person to the other. According to NHS, there are several things you could do to help prevent the back pain during pregnancy from happening.
In case the pain does occur, the following tips will also help you cope up and manage it. Here is what you will need to do during pregnancy:
- You will need to completely avoid lifting heavy objects
- If you just have to lift things, then ensure you bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting or pick things
- Wear flat shoes to evenly distribute your weight
- To avoid twisting your spine, move your feet when turning round
- When working, ensure you work on a surface higher enough to prevent you stooping
- When resting, sit with your back straight and well supported.
- You should always get enough rest. Use a firm mattress that will help prevent and relieve the back pain
- WebMD, back pain during pregnancy: https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/back-pain-in-pregnancy#1
- Spine-health, Common causes of back pain in pregnancy: https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/pregnancy-and-back-pain/common-causes-back-pain-pregnancy
- American pregnancy association, lower back pain during pregnancy: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/back-pain-during-pregnancy/
- Mayo Clinic, Pregnancy Week by Week: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20046080
- National health services, Backache in pregnancy: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/backache-pregnant.aspx