Many women experience back pain during pregnancy, it is a good sign as it shows your baby is growing. Many studies have been done on the percentage of women who suffer with back pain. The results vary greatly; one systematic review found that on average 45% of woman suffer with back pain at some point in pregnancy. This pain can greatly affect your daily life and limit many simple tasks i.e. sitting, walking and standing. Historically the main reasons found to cause this are either mechanical or hormonal.
Our physiotherapist Carol Hopkins hopes to break these down for you to gain a better understanding of your pain and how she may be able to help.
Many of the studies suggest that due to the increase in weight of carrying the added load in the abdomen there is a shift in centre of gravity; causing a change in posture. This change can increase the natural curvature of the spine and therefore put increased stresses on the joints and discs of the lumbar spine. Also the abdominal muscles will be required to stretch to all for the growth of the uterus. This may cause muscle fatigue leading to increased load on the spine.
During pregnancy the hormone levels being produced by the body are increasing to accommodate birth, however this change causes laxity in the ligaments and joints; causing decreased support and promoting pain.
Research describes two types of back pain in pregnancy. The first being lumbar spine pain which occurs at the lower back and this will be felt around the spine itself and the other being pelvic girdle pain which occurs in back of the pelvis and will generally present lower than the lumbar spine into the buttocks. Most will experience one or the other, however sometimes they can occur together.
Physiotherapists will be able differentiate between pelvic pain and low back pain. Once a diagnosis is made appropriate advice and treatment will be applied. Physiotherapy can help to alleviate and manage the pain throughout your pregnancy and even after your baby is born.
The type of treatment techniques commonly used are manual therapy including soft tissue massage, education on self-management strategies, advising on appropriate physical activity i.e. Pilates, swimming, walking; and an exercise based rehab programme. All the above will help to decrease pain, increase range of movement/flexibility and muscle strength and improve posture/joint alignment.