Does back pain have you scrambling for the Tylenol bottle? If so, you're not alone. An aching back is one of the most common symptoms during pregnancy, with more than 2 million expectant moms affected every year.
What's the deal?
Just like most uncomfortable symptoms while gestating, pregnancy hormones are partially to blame. While your little one grows, your body is hard at work manufacturing a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin prepares your body for the birth process, loosening ligaments and joints to make way for baby. Unfortunately, this hormone doesn't discriminate what it relaxes, meaning that the same ligament-loosening powers may also be applied to your spine. The result? A pain that makes you want to cry out.
Your growing belly and expanding bra size are contributing factors too. Back pain usually becomes a problem during the fifth to seventh month of pregnancy, when baby bumps are really growing with some speed. All that extra weight in front messes with your balance, posture and stability, putting extra pressure on your lower back to keep yourself upright.
Of course, expecting a new baby isn't easy on our minds either. With all the planning, to-do lists and financial strains of preparing for a little one, it's not difficult to see how stress factors in. Anxiety and fear can put pressure on our bodies, too, causing knots, pain and spasms in our lower backs.
How to cope
While some over-the-counter pain medications are safe in moderation during pregnancy, it's always best to address the root of the problem first. Before reaching for the pain meds, try some of these soothing tips first:
- Cold compresses: Try icing your muscles with a cold compress. Enlist the help of your partner to apply a bag of veggies from your freezer on your lower back. Put a washcloth on your skin to avoid irritation and keep yourself comfortable. Keep the compress pressed to you for 15-20 minutes each day to offer relief. After a few days, swap cold for hot and apply gentle heat to the area instead. It's worth noting that you should never apply heat to your abdomen while pregnant.
- Yoga: Enroll in a prenatal yoga class which is specifically designed to address the aches and pains of moms-to-be. Ask your instructor for moves that will massage and ease your back pain. He or she may suggest the cat-camel pose, which involves arching your back while on all fours.
- Acupuncture: Talk to your doctor or midwife about seeking help from a qualified acupuncturist. Acupuncture involves inserting sterile, thin needles into energy points along the body. This practice may help ease an aching back and lower your stress levels.
- Therapy: There's no shame in recognizing you need a shoulder to cry on from time to time. Talk to your doctor or midwife about available options for counseling or therapy. He or she can help you find the help you need to address any pre-baby anxiety you're struggling with.
Are you suffering from back pain while pregnant? What are some ways you've found relief? Share your experiences with other moms-to-be in the comments below!