Many myths exist about pregnancy, and you have likely heard or even shared some of them. "Oh, you have heartburn? That means your baby has a full head of hair." Or, "I can tell by the way you're carrying all in front that you're having a boy." These fun wives' tales do no harm, but myths about back pain may prevent some women from seeking help. The fact is that the majority of pregnant women will experience some form of back pain due to hormone production and changing posture as her baby grows. I hope to dispel some of the common misconceptions about pregnancy-related back pain and empower you toward a pain-free pregnancy.
Myth No. 1: My back pain will go away once the baby is born
Unfortunately, few women are this lucky. Back pain during pregnancy is often a result of muscle imbalances around the spine as the body changes in shape. Abdominal muscles weaken and back muscles tighten, creating stress on the back. The production of hormones also makes joints more mobile, increasing the risk of strain and pain.
Once your baby is born, the muscle problems do not automatically reverse, and it takes time for hormone levels to return to normal, thus contributing to persistent back pain. Some women even find that their pain worsens due to the repetitive bending and lifting that occurs while caring for a newborn. Using good posture and performing stretching and strengthening exercises both while pregnant and post partum can help decrease or eliminate pain and help you get back in shape.
Not true. You can achieve significant improvement in back pain if you know what to do. Regular exercise, including walking, gentle stretching, and strengthening, will help keep muscles in optimal condition as your body changes. Moving your body safely and with good posture while doing tasks as simple as sitting, putting on shoes, and lifting will help decrease pain and prevent injury.
Using moist heat and cold packs can also be effective ways of temporarily minimizing discomfort. If your pain is severe and limits your ability to perform your normal activities, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist, chiropractor or massage therapist who specializes in prenatal care for individualized evaluation and treatment.
Myth No. 3: The best thing to do for my back is to rest and keep my feet up
Although new injuries benefit from rest in order to begin healing, rest alone will not resolve back pain. Certain activities, such as heavy lifting, arching and twisting of the spine can cause or aggravate back pain and should be avoided. On the other hand, too little activity will allow your muscles to become weaker and more inflexible, increasing pain. In general, movement including stretching and strengthening exercises will help reduce pain.
Varying your position between walking, sitting, standing, and lying down can also help. If you are looking for a way to relax and unwind, try practicing prenatal yoga. It is an excellent way to improve posture, muscle condition, and stress levels, all of which will benefit your back.
Now you know the truth about pregnancy-related back pain. It should be addressed to ensure optimal physical health during pregnancy and motherhood. You can be proactive in preventing back pain by exercising and using good posture; and keep in mind, it's never too late to start!
Note: It is important to always discuss any back pain you are experiencing with your maternity care provider and get clearance before beginning an exercise program.