Back pain during pregnancy typically takes the form of pain, stiffness, and pain in the upper or lower back and hips, which can sometimes extend into the legs and buttocks.
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When does back pain start and end during pregnancy?
Unfortunately, back pain can occur fairly early in pregnancy. Some women experience it in the first trimester, but for many women, back pain begins around week 18, early in the second trimester. It may persist or sometimes worsen (when sometimes replaced by postpartum back pain!) throughout the second trimester and especially the third trimester until delivery.
What Causes Back Pain During Pregnancy?
Throughout your pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is released, which causes the ligaments of the otherwise stable joints in your pelvis to loosen, making it easier for your baby to pass through during labor.
Add to the weight of your growing uterus and your balance will be thrown off balance as your center of gravity shifts forward.
In turn, your lower back arches more than usual to accommodate the load — leading to overworked muscles and, you guessed it, soreness, stiffness, and pain.
Is pregnancy back pain the same as sciatica?
It may be. If you experience sharp, stabbing pain that starts in your back or buttocks and radiates down your legs, you may have sciatica.
The good news about back pain during pregnancy is that it's usually as curable as usual. Plus, there are many ways to alleviate it — so if one solution doesn't work, another probably will.
Treat back pain during pregnancy
Try the following remedies to relieve your pregnancy back pain:
Pay attention to your posture when sitting. Lounging around in a chair all day actually puts more stress on your spine than anything else. At home and at work, make sure the chairs you use most often offer good support - preferably with a straight back and arms and a firm cushion. Use a footrest to elevate your feet slightly and do not cross your legs. This can cause your pelvis to tilt forward, making those tight back muscles worse.
Take breaks. Walk or stand and stretch frequently, at least once an hour if possible. Sitting for too long can make your back hurt even more. Also, try not to stand for too long. If you're working on your feet, try putting one foot on a low stool to take some pressure off your lower back.
Avoid lifting heavy loads. And if you have to, do it slowly. Stabilize yourself by assuming a wide stance; bend at the knees, not at the waist; Squat down and lift with your arms and legs, not your back. Even better: ask for help!
Accelerate your pregnancy weight gain. Steady weight gain during pregnancy relieves your back.
Wear the right shoes. Extremely high heels are out – as are very flat ones. Experts recommend a low-top shoe with good arch support to keep your body in proper alignment. You can also consider orthotics, special shoe inserts designed to support muscles.
Get a firm mattress. If yours isn't, put a board underneath for the duration of your pregnancy. A body pillow (at least 5 feet long) can also help you find stress-relieving sleeping positions.
Consider getting a criss-cross support sling or belly band. Specially designed for a pregnant figure, these braces can help relieve pressure on the lower back.
No reaching for the stars. Or items on the top shelf, for that matter. Use a low, stable step stool to avoid extra strain on your back.
Think of something nice. A calm mind leads to a looser back. You can also try prenatal yoga, which relaxes both your mind and your back.
Strengthen your stomach. Do pelvic tilts to strengthen your abs, which in turn support your back. Or sit on an exercise ball and rock back and forth.
Go hot and cold. Soothe sore muscles by applying cold compresses, followed by warm compresses at 15-minute intervals.
Take a warm bath. Or, if you have a pulsating showerhead, turn it on for a complimentary back massage.
Get a massage. Speaking of massages, get one (after the first trimester and with a licensed masseuse who knows you're pregnant and is trained in the art of prenatal massage).
Talk to your doctor. Ask your doctor about physical therapists, alternative medicine specialists like acupuncturists, or chiropractors who may be able to help. You should also call your family doctor if you have severe back pain.