10 Tips for avoiding Pregnancy Related Back Pain

During pregnancy, your body undergoes huge changes. As well as the obvious expanding abdomen, changes in your hormones and circulatory system can contribute to softening of ligaments, and sometimes back and pelvic pain, leg pain (sciatica), swelling, high blood pressure and fatigue. It is important to consult your health professional to ensure that further investigation or referral is not required.

Your osteopath’s aim is to assist the natural process of pregnancy and birth – maximising your body’s ability to change and support you and your baby with a minimum of pain and discomfort. We understand that in the scheme of complications that may arise during a pregnancy, musculoskeletal complaints can often be skimmed over, as essentially they rarely pose a risk to the health of your baby. However just because you’re pregnant, doesn’t mean that all hope is lost for treating lower back and pelvic pain. Here at Eureka Osteo, we pride ourselves on providing a high standard of care for all patients.

Here are our top tips for avoiding pregnancy related back pain:

1) Enter pregnancy fit & healthy – and aim to maintain this throughout your pregnancy. Start your pregnancy within your ideal weight range, with a healthy diet, and some good exercise habits. Maintaining strength and fitness during pregnancy has been shown to have numerous benefits. Whether you choose pilates, yoga, walking or weight training, find something that you enjoy and stick to it!

2) Avoid excess weight gain during pregnancy. The Australian Dept of Health recommends 11.3-15.9kg total weight gain for women starting pregnancy within a normal BMI range. This is closer to 9kg for those entering pregnancy overweight. Any increase in weight will affect the load absorbed by your hips, knees and feet, as well as your posture and centre of gravity.

3) Get a diagnosis – is there instability? Is there sciatic or nerve pain? Is this pain coming from the lower back, pubic symphysis or hip? Is this pain pregnancy related at all? – Seeing a professional and having a clear diagnosis helps to define what treatment will be most beneficial.

4) Look after your feet – During the second trimester, your arches will often naturally flatten. Having a supported arch and heel will help to support not only your feet, but your knees and hips too- this means avoiding thongs and ugg boots! Balance can also be an issue during pregnancy, having a stable shoe can help. Avoiding standing for long periods can also be helpful for back and leg pain – someone get the pregnant lady a chair!

5) Go to the pool – In the absence of any medical issues, many women find water helps counteract the effects of gravity and gives their body a rest. Swimming a few gentle laps, joining a water aerobics class, or simply walking in the pool can be a gentle way to exercise, and give some temporary relief from pain.

6) Get comfy in bed – sleep is important, especially when your body is working hard to grow a baby. Sleeping on your side, often with a pillow between your knees may be most comfortable. Afternoon naps may be required!

7) Modify your load – as pregnancy progresses, you might feel fine running around all day, but will be sore and fatigued the next day. Cumulative load can have a big impact. Our advice is to “control the controllables” – Can you break up housework into smaller, more manageable chunks? Can you avoid sitting at your desk for long periods of time? Can you decrease the amount of times you lift your kids? Can you enlist the help of friends or family to avoid increased bending/lifting? In general, slow down!

8) Learn some stretches/positions of relief. This is best discussed with your osteopath, however gentle lower back and gluteal stretches can often give relief. A gentle cat stretch on all fours may be comfortable, and depending on the size of your belly, a seated glute stretch or child’s pose may also give relief. See us to check your technique.

9) Check your posture – As discussed, as your tummy grows, your centre of gravity will move forward, and your lower back may arch to counteract this. Trying to stand up tall, avoid locking your knees out, and keeping your shoulders back can be helpful. When sitting, try using a small cushion or rolled up towel to support your lower back.

10) Pain relief – Finding non pharmaceutical strategies for relieving pain is important. A heat or ice pack on the lower back may give temporary relief. Sometimes taping, bracing and other support garments can help to decrease your pain. Osteo treatment can also provide relief by loosening tight muscles, offloading stiff joints, and providing advice on safe movement.

If you have any further questions about musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy, please don’t hesitate to contact the clinic.

Wishing you a healthy pregnancy,
From the team @ Eureka Osteo

References: 
1) Osteopathic manipulative treatment in gynecology and obstetrics: A systematic review. Ruffini, Nuria et al. Complementary Therapies in Medicine , Volume 26 , 72 – 78
2) Prevalence and characteristics of women who consult with osteopathic practitioners during pregnancy; a report from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH). Frawley, Jane et al. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies , Volume 20 , Issue 1 , 168 – 172
3) Osteopathic manipulative treatment of back pain and related symptoms during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Licciardone JC, Buchanan S, Hensel KL, King HH, Fulda KG, Stoll ST. Published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2010 Jan;202(1):43.
4) http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20046080?pg=2
5) https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n55h_healthy_eating_during_pregnancy.pdf
6) http://www.osteopathy.org.au/pages/pregnancy.html
7) Reduction of Back and Posterior Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy. Östgaard, H. C. MD, PhD; Zetherström, Gunilla RPT; Roos-Hansson, Eva RPT; Svanberg, Bernhard MD, PhD. Spine, April 15, 1994 – Volume 19 – Issue 8
8) Sabino, J. & Grauer, J.N. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med (2008) 1: 137. doi:10.1007/s12178-008-9021-8
9) Gijon-Nogueron GA1, Gavilan-Diaz M, Valle-Funes V, Jimenez-Cebrian AM, Cervera-Marin JA, Morales-Asencio JM. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2013 Jul-Aug;103(4):314-21. Anthropometric foot changes during pregnancy: a pilot study