You're pregnant! Congratulations! Your body's changing-wondrously, marvelously. One unexpected and unwelcome change may be lower back pain. Recent studies suggest that two-thirds of pregnant women experience lower back pain.1
These statistics seem reasonable. The weight of the growing baby, plus the weight of the placenta and amniotic fluid, create an unbalanced load in front of the lower back. The result is irritation of spinal ligaments, muscles, and tendons, causing pain, muscle spasm, and loss of mobility.
Of course, some cases of pregnancy-related back pain have specific medical causes. Uncommon conditions such as pregnancy-associated osteoporosis, septic arthritis, and inflammatory arthritis may need to be considered.2
That said, the vast majority of cases of back pain in pregnancy are mechanical in origin.
Your doctor of chiropractic will perform a complete examination and determine the correct course of treatment, if appropriate. Once you're feeling better, you can begin
stretching and doing safe, gentle exercises that will help prevent recurrences of lower back pain. The goal is to strengthen your lower back and minimize the mechanical effects of pregnancy.
The best method of preventing back pain in the first place is being fit. This includes healthy nutrition, gaining a moderate amount of weight, and regular exercise. Your obstetrician will likely recommend vitamin and iron supplements and will monitor your weight. The average healthy woman gains between 25 and 35 pounds during the course of her pregnancy.3
Let's fast forward a few years. Your newborn is now a toddler. Parents know that if you have kids, stuff happens. You bend over to place a bulky car seat in your car. Then you place your child in it. And then, you bend over to remove the car seat from your car. If you've gone to the mall, kids want Daddy or Mommy to carry them. Pick them up, cart them around, put them down again.
What's a parent to do? It's not like you can avoid any of these activities. Your kids are kids - it's up to you to do stuff for them. The answer lies in regular exercise. "But how will I find time to exercise, when there already isn't enough time to do the things I need to do?"
That's a tough question, but if you recognize the benefits, you'll make the effort to make the time. Forty-five minutes or an hour per workout, three or four times a week, will be plenty. And, once you're in the habit of exercising, you'll notice it's easier to lift your kids, easier to bend over, easier to carry them. It's easier because you're
fitter and stronger. And healthier. And, surprisingly, you're having more fun.
1Pennick VE, Young G: Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 18(2):CD001139, 2007.
2Sax TW, Rosenbaum RB: Neuromuscular disorders in pregnancy. Muscle Nerve 34(5):559-571, 2006.
3Jain NJ, et al: Maternal obesity: can pregnancy weight gain modify risk of selected adverse pregnancy outcomes? Am J Perinatol 24(5):291-298, 2007.