back pain

How Can Physiotherapy Help Low Back Pain During Pregnancy?

You may think that back pain is just one of those things you have to put up with during pregnancy.  It is extremely common, but it can also be debilitating and stop you enjoying the time before and after the birth.

It doesn’t always have to be that way, and there are steps you can take to both prevent and reduce back pain.

Why is back pain so common during pregnancy?

When you are pregnant your body is flooded with hormones, including ‘relaxin,’ which makes your ligaments softer and more stretchy, in preparation for childbirth.  In addition to this your body is becoming heavier and your centre of gravity shifts as your belly expands. Combined together this can put an extra strain on your joints and your pelvis resulting in low back pain that may start quite early on in your pregnancy, progressively get worse and continue after the birth.

What can I do to prevent low back pain?

Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight throughout the pregnancy can help to keep your back strong and flexible.  It’s also important to try to avoid lifting heavy or bulky objects, or learn how to do this safely without twisting if it cannot be avoided, for example if you have other children to look after. If you are working at a desk, try to avoid stooping and take breaks to move around.  Good posture can help prevent and lessen pain, so take time to find out what that feels like for you.  It might feel natural to lean backwards to counter the weight of your bump, but that will just place extra strain on your back, so should be avoided.

How can I reduce pain?

There are various steps you can take to ease pain.  Heat from a pad or a warm bath can be comforting and some people find that swimming helps to ease pain.  You may also want to try sleeping on your side, using pillows for support around your bump and back.  Or ask your partner to gently rub your back.

How can physiotherapy help?

If you are unable to manage your pain your doctor or midwife may refer you to a physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist will examine you and create a tailored plan of exercise and other safe techniques to help reduce pain, as well as prepare your muscles to be healthier and stronger for delivery and speed your post-birth recovery.  They may advise you on strengthening exercises and might also use techniques such as joint mobilisation, massage and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which will be safe for you and your baby. If you have to lift heavy objects (if you already have a child) they will be able to show you how to do this safely and they can advise you on correct posture.

Low back pain may be common during pregnancy but it doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying those special months before and after birth.  Take steps to prevent and reduce pain safely and always speak to your doctor or midwife immediately if you have any concerns.

By Ian Duncan

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