Back pain during pregnancy is a common issue, with around two thirds of women affected at some stage during their pregnancy. Lower back pain during early pregnancy can be debilitating and often requires management throughout the entire pregnancy.
Back pain in the pregnant population usually presents as:
- Lower back pain affecting the thoracic and/or lumbar spinal regions
- Pelvic girdle pain; or
- Combination lower back and pelvic girdle pain
Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain alone affects at least 1 in 5 pregnant women. Other terms commonly used to describe this condition include sacroiliac joint (SIJ) pain, dysfunction or instability; symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) or pubic symphysitis.
Back Pain Early Pregnancy
The pelvic changes during pregnancy are thought to be due to a flood of new hormones entering the system, starting around 10 weeks in. The role of these hormones is to loosen the connective tissue and ligaments around the pelvis, to make room for a growing baby. This will often lead to decreased stability around the pelvis, making it more prone to injury or discomfort.
Lower Back Pain Early Pregnancy
The mid and lower back can also cause issues during pregnancy, as your body adapts to more weight in your abdominal area. This will lead to an arched back position that places strain through the soft tissues around the spine, particularly if you tended to adopt this position before becoming pregnant.
How can physio help?
The main method of treatment for pregnancy-related pelvic girdle or back pain is to address the muscles that support these areas. Usually an imbalance exists across the pelvic girdle or lower back, leading to tightness in some muscles and weakness in others.
Often the treating physio will:
- Complete a thorough physical assessment to work out the cause of your pain
- Discuss appropriate postures and activities to best protect your back and pelvis
- Discuss postures and activities to avoid to prevent further injury or discomfort
- Perform manual therapy to improve joint position and muscle flexibility
- Provide you with exercises designed to help restore a balance of strength around the back and pelvis – they are often quite simple, yet effective!
Will my pain get worse as my pregnancy progresses?
Usually it will not, particularly if you seek treatment early. Being aware of your postural and muscle recruitment patterns can help you stay on top of any recurring pain during your pregnancy.
Pelvic girdle pain or back pain during pregnancy is not dangerous to mother or child, and women experiencing this pain will likely make a full recovery.
What can I do to reduce pain?
- Remain active, taking regular rest periods
- Remember the principles of exercise during pregnancy, including the “talk test” and pelvic floor safe exercises
- Where possible, do all activities in “double leg” positions (when both feet remain on the ground, evenly distributing your weight through both legs). Watch that you don’t spend too much time “dropping” one hip
- Sleep with a pillow between your legs (keeps pelvic rotation to a minimum)
Should I be avoiding anything?
- Avoid heavy lifting where possible
- Limit aggravating activities around the home (heavy chores including vacuuming and mopping can often flare-up pelvic girdle or pregnancy-related back pain)
- Examples of exercises to avoid include: lunges (especially with one foot up on a step), step work, single leg balance poses (yoga tree pose, triangle pose, one foot mountain pose).
If you would like an assessment of pregnancy-related back pain and assistance with managing this, please contact Hoys Allied Health + Wellness to arrange an appointment with Heidi.
Hoys Allied Health + Wellness also run a pregnancy-safe core exercise class on Wednesday afternoons at 5.30pm in Sawtell. This class is run by a physiotherapist with a special interest in women’s health. For further information, please contact us on 6652 7355 or book online.