Relieving Back Pain in Pregnancy
Whether you’re a new mom-to-be or a seasoned mama, back pain during pregnancy and beyond is no joke! An estimated 50-80% of pregnant women experience pain localized along the spine near the center back (lumbar pain), lower back, or down to the tailbone (posterior pelvic pain). These backaches can range from dull and mild to intense radiating bursts. Hormonal changes, postural changes, weight gain, overall stress on the body, and the other factors below are just a few of the common causes that contribute to pregnancy-related back pain.
Common Causes of Back Pain During Pregnancy
That front load weight, which slowly develops with the growing uterus over 9 months, is not a stressor that the body is used to dealing with. It can force you to change the normal muscle patterns that allow you to move in all your day-to-day activities. Pregnancy demands that we adapt, improvise, and try to overcome. Picking things up from the floor, sitting, standing, and even walking become more of a challenge, especially as we enter into the third trimester. And moving the wrong way can be a recipe for pain in your hips and back muscles.
Relaxin is Relaxing your Ligaments
Relaxin is the hormone responsible for loosening the ligaments in your pelvic area to help your body prepare for childbirth. Its production peaks at the end of the first trimester. This is, of course, ideal when you are ready to deliver, but in the meantime, relaxin affects all the joints and ligaments in your body. This loosening can lead to destabilized joints, lower back pain, and hip pain during pregnancy. Additionally, you might notice some old injuries pop up due to the effects of relaxin during this time as well.
The Do’s and Don’ts for Pain Management
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of pain management options for pregnant women. Healthcare professionals tell us not to eat deli meat and soft cheeses, but they don’t warn us that taking ibuprofen can possibly harm our baby! While Tylenol (acetaminophen) may be an option for the occasional aches and pains, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aleve or Advil should not be taken in the third trimester. These medications can reduce amniotic fluid, leading to significant kidney problems in the baby, or cause a premature closure in the the ductus arteriosus – a blood vessel that delivers the oxygen and nutrients necessary for a baby to thrive in the uterus.
But pain is not something that pregnant moms should “just have to deal with!” Thankfully, there are safe and effective options out there to provide relief for your hip and lower back problems.
Safe and Effective Strategies for Pain Relief
A little TLC may go a long way. A prenatal massage can be helpful for relaxing and relieving aches in over strained muscles, especially in the second and third trimester. There are, however, acupressure points along the body that can stimulate labor, so it’s important to consult with your doctor first, and make sure you see a massage therapist who is trained in prenatal massage techniques.
A simple at-home strategy for relieving the aches and pains that come along with pregnancy may be the application of heat and cold. Heat causes your blood vessels to expand, which promotes circulation to tissues in need of healing. Cold temperatures make your blood vessels contract, which help to relieve inflammation. Alternating hot and cold encourages the body to pump blood, deliver oxygen and nutrients effectively, and release carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and other waste products.
One way to achieve the benefits of hydrotherapy at home is to alternate showering in warm and cold water every 2-4 minutes. [It’s important to note that whole body applications of heat via a sauna or hot tub should never be done during pregnancy, as this can cause an unsafe drop in the mother’s blood pressure and compromise blood flow to the baby]. Another way to ease into hydrotherapy would be to alternate heating pads to soothe stiff muscles and joints, and cold compresses on target areas of the body to reduce inflammation. A rule of thumb is to alternate 3 times and always end on a cold compress.
One of the most beneficial, preventative ways to minimize pain throughout pregnancy is to maintain a moderate workout program under the guidance of your physician and qualified personal trainer or physical therapist. Regular exercise can boost your mood, extend your energy, and prepare your body for the delivery process by strengthening different muscle groups such as your pelvic floor. If you do not already have an established fitness routine, adding in a daily 30 minute walk can be quite effective. If you are looking to maintain a regime, consider working with a certified prenatal and postnatal fitness trainer to help prevent injury. Always consult with your OB or midwife to make sure exercise is safe for you and your pregnancy.
Perineural injections are hugely beneficial in helping both pregnant and postpartum women relieve pain in their lower back, neck, shoulders, and hips. Since perineural injections consist of dextrose, the treatment is safe to receive during pregnancy and will not cause harm or stress on your baby. Dextrose is a naturally occurring sugar in the body, and when it is concentrated to 5% and injected next to an inflamed nerve, it has the ability to restore the injured nerve cells’ signaling and function. Perineural injections can offer immediate relief and eliminate pain altogether while allowing the nerve and surrounding tissues to heal.
The Good News
The journey of pregnancy is both an exciting time and a whirlwind of changes for your body. Perineural Injections can help to take pain off your plate and allow you to breeze through motherhood! If you’re looking to relieve your low back pain, consider becoming a patient with us. At Ethos Integrative Medicine, we love to help moms stay active and be the superheroes that they are.