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Back Pain During Pregnancy

Topic Overview

Most women develop back pain at some point during pregnancy. As the size and weight of your growing belly place more strain on your back, you may notice your posture changing. To protect your back from poor posture, unnecessary strain, and painful injury, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid standing with your belly pushed forward and your back arched too much. Instead try to maintain a posture with your ears, shoulders, and hips generally in a straight line.
  • When standing, rest one foot on a small box, brick, or stool. Try not to stand for long periods of time.
  • Sit with a back support or pillow against your lower back. If you must sit for prolonged periods, take a break every hour.
  • Avoid heavy lifting. Lift only by raising from a squat, keeping your waist and back straight.
  • Avoid stretching to reach something, such as on a high shelf or across a table.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress (plywood under a mattress helps). Lie on your side, with a pillow between your knees.
  • Stay active, and do simple back exercises.

You can help reduce back pain by wearing supportive, low-heeled shoes and avoiding flat or high-heeled shoes. A pregnancy support belt that rests under your abdomen can also help take the strain off of your back.

Soak in a warm tub, or apply heat or cold to your tired or achy back. Massage can help relieve muscle strain and tension.

Simple back exercises

See the following pictures of stretching and strengthening exercises. These are well suited to pregnancy. And they can help your back handle the demands of pregnancy.

When to call a doctor

See your doctor or nurse-midwife about back pain that gets worse or doesn't go away. It could be a sign of a serious problem, such as a kidney infection or preterm labor.

Talk to your doctor or nurse-midwife about seeing a physical therapist for back pain that interferes with your daily routine or awakens you at night or for leg pain or numbness (sciatica). A physical therapist can give you safe and simple exercises that are tailored to the cause of your back pain.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised July 23, 2012

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