Is Lower Back Pain Normal During Pregnancy?

Is Lower Back Pain Normal During Pregnancy?

Aside from heartburn, indigestion, and pelvic pain (of course), lower back pain is one of the most common complaints we hear from pregnant women. 

It’s not easy being pregnant. It’s one of life’s greatest joys, but it also comes with its fair share of physical upset as your body adjusts to its new normal. By the time you reach full term, you could be carrying around an additional 25 to 35 lbs. We all know that the so-called “pregnancy glow” is down to beads of sweat from dragging that extra weight around with you. Right? 

Your organs move around to accommodate the expanding placenta.

Your stomach seems to move up into your throat, causing acid reflux.

And numerous other bodily changes occur to accommodate your baby. 

It’s all fun and games. 

Have you got lower back pain?

The pain and discomfort are a million per cent worth it in the end. Still, while you’re carrying a tiny human, everything inside your abdomen and around your core stretches and becomes softer to accommodate the growing fetus and prepare your body for childbirth. As your bump gets bigger and starts to protrude, the ligaments in your back begin to loosen and get softer. For lots of women, this stretching and softening are accompanied by lower back pain.

Some studies claim that the figures are as high as 90% of women experiencing some form of lower back pain during their pregnancies. Most commonly, lower back pain happens in the third trimester when your baby’s weight adds extra pressure on the ligaments. Still, it can occur as early as 8-12 weeks for some women. 

However, there are steps you can take to prevent it and to ease the pain if you’re one of the many women who experience lower back pain during pregnancy. 

Here are some of our favorites:

Top 10 Tips to Ease Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy

 Top 10 Tips to Ease Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy 

If you experience any pain in pregnancy, we recommend you get it checked over by your obstetrician first. Followed by a consultation with a Physical Therapist for the most effective treatment and resolution of your pain. But if your pain is down to the natural pulls and stresses and strains of carrying a baby, here are our top tips for easing the discomfort:

  1. Change the way you move; Bend your knees and keep your back straight whenever you need to pick something up. This way, the weight goes through your legs instead of bending through your lower back. Imagine you’re doing a squat as you do in the gym. It’ll feel strange, to begin with, because we get into the habit of bending forwards without thinking. But it’s worth making the extra effort to avoid worsening back pain.
  2. Due to misguided societal pressures, it’s tempting to want to be superwoman when you’re pregnant. But don’t be a hero – it’s not worth it. Your baby and body are much more important. If you need to lift something heavy, ask for help. See Point 7 too!
  3. Don’t twist through your lower back with your feet planted. Instead, move your feet around – in baby steps, until you’re facing the direction you want. Again, this might seem strange and unnecessary to start. But after a while, you should notice a reduction in your pain levels. 
  4. Avoid wearing heels or uncomfortable shoes as your pregnancy progresses. Instead, choose flat shoes that distribute your weight evenly. Who can be bothered with heels after the first trimester anyway, right? That’s just silly. 
  5. If you go shopping and have heavy bags – either get someone to carry them for you or make sure to keep the weight even. This balance between your two arms will stop your spine from bending over to one side
  6. If you’re still working and sitting for long periods, keep your back supported and sit up straight with the help of special pregnancy pillows or support bolsters. If your back is aching, get up and walk around – or take a bath or hot shower (see Point 8).
  7. Rest – this one can’t be overstated, particularly in the final trimester. You’re carrying around the equivalent of an enormous ten-pin bowling ball. Make sure you spend time resting during the day and making sure you get a good night of quality sleep as often as possible.
  8. Heat therapy – either in hot baths and showers or via a heat pack applied to the back can help relax your muscles and ease the pain. Always wrap hot water bottles and other heat wraps in an extra layer of fabric before applying to your skin to prevent damage to your skin.
  9. Massage – ask your partner to oblige (it’s only fair) – or book in for a professional, therapeutic prenatal massage. 
  10. Invest in a good mattress. It might seem excessive because you’re only pregnant for nine months. Still, nine months is a very long time if you’re in pain, your existing mattress is making things worse, and you’re not able to get a good night’s sleep. For extra support without the expense of a new mattress, trying to put a plank of hardwood underneath your current bed and see if it helps.

These things should all help ease the pain. But one of the other excellent things you could consider trying to prevent and treat lower back pain in pregnancy is Pilates.

Prenatal Pilates for Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy

Prenatal Pilates for Back Pain and Pregnancy

With your doctor’s agreement, Pilates is a gentle form of conditioning exercise that is great for pregnant women. It helps strengthen the ligaments in your back to prevent lower back pain during your pregnancy. It prepares your body for labor and delivery. It’s arguably one of the best forms of exercise you can do while pregnant – and it can be done for the whole nine months if you’re able. 

But even when you’re not pregnant, Pilates is an excellent form of exercise that gives you a long, lean, and strong physique. Think Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson. It can be sped up or slowed down, dependent on your level of fitness. We can intensify the muscle-building building capacity and cardio fitness too.

But it’s specifically popular with expectant mothers. Numerous celebrity moms opted to do “Prenatal Pilates” – a gentler version of their regular Pilates workouts, right through their pregnancies, including Eva Longoria, Jessica Alba, Khloe Kardashian, and Hilary Duff. 

“My body has given me the greatest gift of my life.” 

– Hilary Duff (on Pregnancy)

Unlike regular Pilates – which works slightly different abdominal muscles, prenatal Pilates focuses on the transverse abdominal muscles. These deep abdominal muscles wrap around your entire core – front, back, and sides like a weightlifting belt. They are super-important when you’re pregnant because they support your back and pelvis and the weight of your growing baby.

Without your transverse abdominal muscles, your bump would drop to the floor. So, a prenatal Pilates workout is a highly safe and beneficial way to strengthen these all-important muscles. It can be used to both prevent and treat lower back pain in both the pre and postnatal periods.

Don’t Suffer in Silence: How to Get Help with Lower Back Pain In Pregnancy

Get Help for Back Pain When Pregnant

The most important thing to remember with lower back pain in pregnancy is that you don’t have to suck it up and get on with it. It’s an outdated idea that women must endure the negative aspects of pregnancy and postpartum. We don’t. Too often, issues like lower back pain, pelvic pain, and urinary stress incontinence are swept under the carpet and not talked about. Sadly, this causes many women to think these issues are “not normal.” But the opposite is true.

Lower back pain, stress incontinence, and bladder pain are common and “normal” complaints during pregnancy. We can treat them, and your pain symptoms (and other embarrassing consequences) can be improved dramatically – with the right help. 

At Level 4 PT & Wellness, we specialize in Women’s Health and Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy. Mainly the issues that occur before, during, and after pregnancy – even if it’s been three decades since you gave birth. We work with women who are undergoing fertility treatment and trying to conceive and new and expectant moms.

We also work with women going through the physical changes associated with Perimenopause and menopause – treating everything from Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Diastasis Recti, incontinence, and chronic constipation to Postnatal Back Pain and Painful Sex.

Would you like to find out more about how we can help?

Why not book a free call with one of our Women’s Health Specialists? We offer this complimentary 30-minute call to all new patients. It’s a chance for you to talk about your pregnancy or postnatal-related issues in confidence and find out how we can help before you commit to booking an appointment. If you prefer, you can choose to visit the clinic instead for a 30-minute Discovery Visit – and meet your PT in person.

Don’t feel like you cannot approach this subject with us. Don’t suffer in silence.

We are here to help with your lower back pain.
We look forward to hearing from you!

Dawn Andalon, DPT, MTC, CPI
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