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Back pain in pregnancy: causes and what you can do about it

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Jojo Bierlein-Lodewyk
Pelvic health physical therapist

Show of hands - who didn’t have back pain in pregnancy?! Anyone? Anyone at all? No one? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I mean, it makes sense when you stop and look at how much a woman’s posture changes during pregnancy! We go from a nice straight line between ankles, hips, shoulders, and ears to expanded and tilted hips, arched back, stretched core, enlarged breasts, rounded shoulders. A very curved and zig zagged posture line (technical term).

With these posture changes comes relaxed joints from pregnancy hormones (relaxin), imbalance in muscle tension, and compensation patterns as our body is just trying to stay upright despite the progressive changes every day.

Well now - it’s no wonder our backs hurt! So if the pregnancy body changes are inevitable, does that mean the back pain is too? Short answer: nope!

Here are some of the best strategies to keep the back pain as minimal as possible throughout your pregnancy:

1. Watch your posture

If you turn sideways in the mirror, try to get your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and ears in as straight of a line as you can. It will get harder the further along you are in pregnancy, and you might even feel a little bit of a stretch when trying to get into this position. This is a good thing! By doing these stretches, you’re not letting your body sit and memorise a posture that you’re going to want to reverse after pregnancy.

2. Walk as much as you can

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise during pregnancy. It helps keep your hips and back loose and mobile, preventing some of the stiffness that is a common cause of back pain.

3. Stretching

Your body is already stretching quite a bit on the inside, but sometimes we need to do some additional stretching from the outside to reduce tension and promote mobility alongside our body’s natural changes.

4. Sit on supportive surfaces

While we all love a cosy cloud-like couch that you can just sink into, your body needs more support than that right now. Choose chairs with firmer support, and then add pillows behind your back as needed for comfort.

Have a long drive? Use a towel roll behind your low back and stop frequently to get out and stretch! Car seats aren’t often the most comfortable during pregnancy.

5. Change postures frequently

Your body won’t respond well to being in the same position for extended periods of time. You’ll likely get stiff and experience increased pain afterwards. So alternate between sitting and standing, walk around or in place.

6. Exercise your lower back and pelvis

Some great options for any phase of pregnancy are:

  • Sitting on a yoga ball and doing pelvic tilts and circles
  • Cat/cow poses
  • Child’s pose (whether on the ground or reaching off the side of the couch onto a coffee table)
  • Happy baby or deep squat against the wall.

7. Drink water frequently

Dehydrated muscles tense and spasm more frequently and more intensely. Keep those muscles hydrated!