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Originally published in March 2012

So you’ve been eagerly waiting the day that your body changes enough for it to be clearly obvious you’re pregnant.  Be careful what you wish for.  The weight gain of pregnancy, the changes in posture, and the hormonal effects causing relaxation of muscles and ligaments all can lead to back pain.  While this is a common complaint in pregnancy, it can be treated and even prevented.  Consider these tips for beating back pain.

Practice Proper Posture:   As your baby bump grows, often too does the arch in your back to compensate against your shifting center of gravity.  Stand up straight with a wide stance for best support.  If standing for long periods of time, try to prop one foot on a low object and shift your weight alternately.  Keep your shoulders back and relaxed.  When sitting, choose a chair with a back support or place a pillow behind their lower back.  When lifting, squat down and use your legs.  Don’t bend at the waist which causes you to lift with your back.  Recognize your limitations and ask for help if needed.

“Gear Up”:  What you wear can aggravate or alleviate your back pain.  Wear low heeled shoes with a good arch support.  Choose maternity clothes with a low supportive waist band.  Many women find a maternity support belt helpful to provide extra support.  Also, while sleeping, extra pillows can help keep your spine aligned.  Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees, one behind your back and another under your abdomen.  A body pillow can be helpful for positioning.

Get Physical:  Regular physical activity can help keep the muscles in your lower back strong and can actually relieve back pain during pregnancy.  Gentle activities like walking or swimming are perfect for uncomplicated pregnancy.  Stretches can also help.  Rest on your hands and knees with your head in line with your spine.  Pull in your stomach, round out your back and hold for a few seconds then relax keeping your back flat.

Complimentary Therapies:  Applying heat and alternating ice and heat can improve back pain.  Back rubs can soothe muscle tension and relax the pregnant patient.  Professional prenatal massage may also provide comfort.  Some research suggests acupuncture or chiropractic treatments can also bring relief to back pain.  Before beginning any complementary therapy, ensure there is no underlying complication.

When to call your doctor’s office:  If your back pain doesn’t respond to these self-help tips, it may be necessary to rule out pregnancy complications.  Back pain can be a symptom of preterm labor.  If you are concerned about your back pain because it isn’t improving despite the above tips, call your doctor’s office.

Written by Missy Blanchard, WHNP

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