Lower and Upper Back Pain Causes, Symptoms, and Exercises

Studies show that 80% of expectant mothers experience back pain during pregnancy. Find out what home treatments may ease pregnancy back pain.

Over 70% of pregnant women complain of back pain, particularly during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Back pain during pregnancy is very common - in fact, it is one of the normal symptoms of pregnancy. There are two types of back pain in pregnancy and they are lumbar (lower back pain) and posterior pelvic pain.

Continue reading if you want to find out what are the most common causes of lower back pain in pregnancy and what to do for back pain.

What is Back pain?

Back pain in pregnancy is a common problem that affects many women. It may be triggered by your changing hormones, bad posture or weight gain. One of the most common causes of pregnancy back pain is weight gain.

During a normal, healthy pregnancy a woman typically gains between 25 or 35 pounds. The spine has to support that extra weight and this can cause lower back pain. The weight of the growing baby also puts pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the back and pelvis.

Back Pain During Pregnancy

Hormonal changes and posture changes can also cause lower and upper back pain in pregnancy. Pregnancy shifts your center of gravity, so you may slowly begin to adjust your posture which can result in terrible back pain.

During pregnancy, your body starts producing the pregnancy hormone relaxin which loosens the joints and the ligaments in the pelvic area in preparation for delivery. This can lead to discomfort and severe lower back pain. Another common cause of back pain is emotional stress which can result in muscle tension in the back.

What Are the Symptoms of Back Pain?

The causes of backache during pregnancy are numerous, but they often share the same symptoms. Some of the common back pain symptoms include persistent aching along your spine, sharp pain in your neck, upper back or lower back, a chronic ache in the lower back (especially after standing or sitting for a longer period of time), and inability to stand straight without having pain and muscle spasms in the back.

What causes muscle spasms in the lower back?

Muscle spasms in the back are one of the common discomforts experienced by expecting mothers. Muscle spasms or cramps are spontaneous contractions of a muscle or a group of muscles that happen abruptly and are mostly commonly experienced at night. Muscle spasms in the lower back in pregnancy are usually caused by weight gain and shifting hormones. They are often harmless, but they can also be symptomatic of some additional complications so check with your doctor if the muscle spasms become painful or more frequent.

Prevention to Avoid Backache

What does it mean if you have severe lower back pain?

Many women experience severe lower back pain during their second and third trimester. This is not usually a cause for alarm, but you should definitely call your doctor if you feel tingling and numbness in your groin, legs, and arms. This may signal damage to the spinal cord so you need to seek immediate medical help.

Call your doctor if the pain increases when you cough or bend forward, which can be a sign of a herniated disc. If the pain in your back expands downward along the back of the legs, you may be suffering from sciatica. Sciatica is caused by a herniated disc in the spine but it's relatively uncommon and affects only 1% of pregnant women. Sciatic nerve pain is described as a tingling sensation in the legs and numbness in the groin.

If you think you have sciatic pain or if your backache is accompanied by fever or frequent urination, be sure to see your doctor immediately.

How can you prevent back pain?

Luckily, there are many ways you can ease or prevent backache. In order to prevent backache in pregnancy, the most important thing you have to do is to practice good posture. As your baby grows bigger, your center of gravity shifts forward. To avoid falling forward, you might compensate by leaning back, which can strain the muscles in your lower back and cause pain. Stand up straight and tall and hold your chest high. Avoid standing and sitting for too long, but if you must stand for long period of time, rest one foot on a low step stool and sit when you can. Choose a chair that supports your back or put a small pillow behind your lower back to prevent pain.

Wear comfortable shoes and try to avoid high heels. As your babby and your belly grow, high heels can only increase your chances of stumbling and falling.

Another way to prevent back pain is to wear a good, supportive maternity bra. Make sure that the straps are wide and the cups are big enough if you want to avoid extra strain on your back and shoulders. Use a lot of pillows in the bed and try to adjust to sleeping on your side. Sleeping on your left side can increase the amount of nutrients and blood that reach the placenta and your growing baby. Keep your knees and legs bent and put a pillow between your legs.

Tips to ease back pain in pregnancy

Gentle exercise such as walking and stretching may relieve your pain and stiffness. However, don't force yourself to exercise if you feel pain because you can strain your ligaments further. You can also try swimming which is considered to be one of the best back pain exercises. Yoga, meditation, warm (but not hot) bath and gentle massage can also be helpful and ease your backache.

Studies have shown that acupuncture can be an effective back pain treatment. Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medical treatment that uses fine needles to stimulate certain points in the body and can be effective in relieving lower back pain in pregnancy. However, make sure to check with your health care provider if you're interested in trying it.

Chiropractic treatment might also provide comfort and relief for some women. Another thing you can also try is heat or cold. Place a hot water bottle or a cold pack on your lower back. Even though there's no hard evidence that heat and cold are very effective, they are surely worth a try and will provide at least a short-term relief. Just keep in mind to cover the bottle or the pack with a thin cloth to protect your skin.