Why does my back hurt so bad? Some of the most common causes are strain on the back muscles, abdominal muscle weakness, the muscle relaxation associated with pregnancy hormones, stress and weight gain. Essentially, as the uterus and your baby grow, this extra weight pulls the middle of your body forward, so in order to not fall over, you end up leaning your upper torso backward. This causes strain on the muscles in your back, hence the back pain experienced during pregnancy, particularly in the last trimester. Remember, your little bundle of joy doesn’t hate you..he/she is just growing up so fast :)
What can I do about it? Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options that are safe for you and your baby.
One of the first options is the use of exercise to strengthen those core muscles that support the back. You can follow this link to some of the exercises recommended by the Mayo Clinic as safe during pregnancy, but remember to check with your ob/gyn to ensure that these activities are safe for your particular pregnancy.
Application of heating pads and ice can also be an effective treatment option. Just remember to make sure you’re out of the first trimester before applying heat, and also remember to apply to the back rather than directly to the abdomen. This can be done for up to 20 minutes per application as frequently as 2-3x per day. If you need help, be sure to enlist your partner for proper application as well as for massages, which are generally very safe during pregnancy. Besides, if you’re carrying the baby, they need to be put to work, too, right?
If your partner’s best massage effort feels too much like they are playing the drums on your back, then you can always enlist a professional masseuse or chiropractor. Occasionally, physical therapy may even be appropriate. Just make sure no one presses directly on your back while your stomach is flat on the table or the floor. Not only would that be uncomfortable to you, but your little one definitely won’t appreciate being at the bottom of a dog pile.
There are also some super-cute clothing options ;) A maternity support belt; flat-soled shoes, rather than high heels, with good arch support (I can’t imagine that I would have the talent to wear heels to begin with, but I’m assuming it takes true skill to pull off in the third trimester anyway); or even maternity support hose are all options for helping with back pain.
Other changes involve placing a pillow behind your lower back while seated and using chairs with lumbar support. If you have the option to pick a firmer mattress, whether in the guest room and kids’ room, give it a chance, too. You can even use pillows between your legs or behind your back while sleeping to relieve some of the pressure and keep you off of your back while asleep.
Tylenol is usually safe to use while pregnant. If there is any question, be sure to ask your doctor, but otherwise, 500 to 1,000mg every 8 hours is generally OK, as long as you don’t exceed 3,000mg per day. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, etc. are not recommended during pregnancy, and narcotic pain medications are not usually great treatment options either, as there is an increased risk of preterm delivery, small birth weight, withdrawal symptoms, respiratory distress, seizures, and feeding difficulties in babies whose mothers used prescription narcotics.
Finally, some good news. Unless you had chronic back pain prior to pregnancy, we would expect your symptoms to resolve after delivery. Even though that doesn’t help right now, it is important to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Besides, as cute as your baby will be, the discomforts of pregnancy will be totally worth it :)