Although pregnancy is an exciting time, there are many aches and pains that go along with growing a baby. Most women, regardless of physical status or age, experience some type of orthopedic condition during their pregnancy. The most common complaint is back pain, namely in the lower back region. This is often due to the fact that the expectant mother is carrying the extra weight of the baby and her growing uterus. This causes the mother’s balance to get thrown off as her center of gravity shifts forward, resulting in the lower back curving more than usual to accommodate the load. Once all these factors come into play, the end result is often strained muscles, soreness, stiffness and pain.
What you can do to alleviate the pain
Practice good posture while sitting and standing. Sitting in a chair for many hours a day can actually put more strain on the spine than anything else. When you’re at home, work or in the car, make sure you have good support and a straight back. Cushioned arm rests and elevated foot rests are ideal. It is also important to not cross your legs as it can cause the pelvis to tilt forward, which will put more pressure on the already strained back muscles. When on your feet, stand straight and tall with your chest high. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed, and remember to not lock your knees.
Get moving. Women should take breaks throughout the day. Standing, walking and stretching are simple exercises that can help alleviate the pain, as sitting too long can exacerbate back pain. With your physician’s approval, gentle physical activity (such as walking, stretching or water exercises) on a regular basis can help keep your back strong and relieve some of the pain.
Wear the right shoes. Comfortable, padded and supportive shoes are a must. Tall heels and flats are discouraged.
Avoid lifting heavy loads. Whenever possible, leave the heavy lifting to someone else. If it is a must, remember to do it slowly. Bend at the knees rather than the waist, and lift with your arms and legs, not your back.
Consider a supportive back brace. Braces specifically designed for pregnant women have proven to alleviate the pressure of a woman’s belly weight off the lower back. There are many designs available that are slim enough to wear underneath clothes without being detected.
Consider a body pillow and/or firmer mattress. A body pillow can help minimize the stress placed on the back while sleeping. Softer mattresses will usually worsen the pain, so the firmer the mattress, the better.
Talk to your doctor. If your back pain is significant and intolerable, ask your physician about physical therapists, chiropractors or alternative options that may help. Also keep in mind that back pain during pregnancy might be a sign of preterm labor; never hesitate to call your doctor if the pain is severe and consistent.