Back Pain During Pregnancy: 7 Ways to Find Relief

May 2022

One quick and simple way of relieving back pain during pregnancy is to lie down (on the ground or on a hard surface), face up with your knees bent and your arms stretched on the sides of your body. This position helps remove pressure from the vertebra, which relieves back pain in a few minutes.

Back pain is very a common symptom during pregnancy, that tends to appear in 7 out of 10 pregnant women, but it especially affects teenagers, who are still in a growing stage, smokers, and those who had back pain before getting pregnant. 

Some simple strategies you can use to eliminate back pain during pregnancy include:

  1. Have a warm bath or apply warm compresses. Having a warm bath or applying a warm compress to your back, for 15 minutes helps relax the muscles and relieve pain;
  2. Put some pillows between your legs while you sleep on your side. This helps keep your back straight, reducing discomfort while sleeping;
  3. Have a massage. A simple massage, with circular movements toward your back and legs can help relax the muscles and relieve muscle tension, especially after a warm bath,
  4. Do regular stretches. Simples stretches, like lying on your back with your legs bent or bringing your knees into your chest and holding one leg at a time, can also help reduce muscle tension; 
  5. Have a physiotherapy session. There are many different techniques that can be used by a physiotherapist to help reduce back pain during pregnancy;
  6. Practice physical activity regularly. Performing some exercise, at least 30 minutes everyday, can help strengthen your back muscles and prevent pain from returning. Some good activities that are safe for pregnancy include water aerobics, swimming, yoga and pilates.
  7. Take medication under medical supervision. When nothing else seems to relieve back pain, you may need to visit a doctor to evaluate the need of using oral medication, such as acetaminophen.

Is it normal to have back pain in early pregnancy? 

It is very common for the expectant mother to start feeling back pain at the beginning of pregnancy due to the increase in progesterone and relaxin in the blood. These hormones relax the spinal and sacral ligaments to start making room for the growing fetus, which can cause pain.

Back pain in early pregnancy is more common in women with a history of back pain. It tends to worsen as the pregnancy progresses.

How to avoid back pain during pregnancy 

Ideally, you should be at a healthy weight before getting pregnant, as a heavy weight can aggravate back pain. In addition, it’s also important to:

  • Avoid gaining over 10 kg (22 lb) during pregnancy;
  • Use a belly belt when the belly starts weighing down;
  • Perform regular stretching exercises for your legs and back every morning and night​;
  • Try keeping your back straight, when sitting and walking;
  • Avoid lifting weights. When necessary hold heavier objects close to your body, bending your knees and keeping your back straight.

It is also recommended to avoid wearing high heels or flat sandals. The best option is to wear shoes with 3 cm heels that are comfortable and firm. 

When to see the doctor 

Back pain is a very common symptom during pregnancy and, most of the time, is not a sign of any serious problem.

However, it is recommended to visit a doctor if the pain remains after trying all natural strategies to get rid of it or if it gets so intense that it makes it impossible to carry out simple daily activities. In addition, it is also advisable to seek medical help if the pain occurs suddenly or if it comes with other symptoms, such as nausea or shortness of breath.

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Edited by Tua Saude editing team in May 2022. Clinical review completed by Marcelle Pinheiro - Physiotherapist in May 2022.

References

  • MANN; Luana, et al. Dor lombo-pélvica e exercício físico durante a gestação. Fisioter. Mov. Vol.21. 2.ed; 99-105, 2008
  • SANTOS, Marília Manfrin dos; GALLO, Ana Paula. Lombalgia gestacional: prevalência e características de um programa pré-natal. Arq Bras Ciên Saúde, Santo André. Vol.35. 3.ed; 174-9, 2010
Show more references
  • CARVALHO, Maria Emília Coelho Costa, et al. Lombalgia na gestação. Brazilian Journal of Anesthesiology. Vol.67. 3.ed; 266-270, 2017
Clinical review:
Marcelle Pinheiro
Physiotherapist
Physiotherapist degree provided by the University of Estácio de Sá (Brazil). Licensed to practice under CREFITO #170751.