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Causes of back pain during pregnancy
On average, women are more prone to back pain than men.3 Pregnancy-related complaints affecting the back are particularly common. In most cases, it concerns so-called low back pain, i.e. pain in the lower region of the back between the pelvis and the base of the ribs.4 This is particularly noticeable when sitting, lying down, standing up, bending over, dressing or undressing, for example, as muscle tension or restricted movement. But why do some women experience back pain at all during pregnancy?
The causes of back pain during pregnancy are:
- Hormonal changes: In preparation for birth, hormones cause the ligaments in the pelvic area to loosen, including those in the sacroiliac joints and the pubic symphysis. This reduces pelvic and lower back stability. These complaints are intensified by additional physical strain.
- Weight gain: A growing baby tummy means that some women become more inactive. Sport and exercise may no longer be possible to the usual extent. Muscle strength suffers as a result, which, in turn, can lead to pain when under strain.
- Shift in centre of gravity: The more the child grows, the more the body’s centre of gravity shifts forward, often resulting in a hollow back. This posture places a strain on the muscles and ligaments of the spine, which can lead to back pain5 – especially during the later stages of pregnancy.
- Pelvic instability: It mainly leads to frontal pain in the pelvic girdle at the symphysis (cartilaginous connection of the left and right pubic bone). In such cases, doctors speak of so-called symphyseal pain. This also occurs at the back of the two joints between the sacrum and ilium (sacroiliac joints). In some cases, pain in the sacroiliac joints can radiate to the lumbar spine. Women often perceive this as back pain in the iliac crest.
There are many other causes of back pain. If these occur during pregnancy, please be sure to discuss this with your doctor.
What helps with back pain during pregnancy?
Depending on whether a woman experiences back pain in her lower or upper back during pregnancy, and how severe this pain is, different measures can help. It is advisable to consult a gynaecologist or midwife. In certain cases, acupuncture can bring relief.6 Physiotherapy exercises with a physiotherapist can also help some pregnant women feel better. For less severe issues, women also have the option of doing something good for themselves with simple solutions such as the Lumbamed® maternity orthosis. Key tips and tricks are summarised below.
What women can do for back pain during pregnancy:
- Avoid sitting for prolonged periods: During long car journeys, expectant mothers should take regular breaks. When in the office, a pregnant woman should change her seated position at regular intervals. A gymnastics ball has proven to be a back-friendly way of sitting, in order to relieve the spine.
- Pregnancy gymnastics and yoga: Pregnant women often find gymnastics (for example: in water) or yoga exercises to be beneficial. The back and pelvis can be strengthened in this way.
- Upright posture: In order to avoid incorrect posture in day-to-day life, pregnant women should consciously pay attention to maintaining an upright posture. A special pillow between the knees can bring relief for side sleepers at night.
- Warmth: A hot water bottle or cherry stone cushion and a red light lamp can relieve pain. However, too much heat may trigger premature contractions. It is, therefore, advisable to consult a gynaecologist.
- Relaxation exercises: It helps some pregnant women to do loosening-up exercises to improve spinal mobility.
Exercise for a relaxed back:7
A pregnant woman adopts the “all fours” position. Now she forms a hunchback while her gaze is directed to the floor. She then returns to the starting position. This sequence can be repeated ten times.
Depending on how fit the expectant mother feels, sport can be a good way to reduce back pain.
There are special support belts available for the lumbar spine. These can counteract the shift in the centre of gravity and a hollow back, thus helping to relieve back pain during pregnancy.
The lumbar orthosis Lumbamed® maternity provides relief and stability. The belt adapts to the shape of the tummy without restricting the unborn baby's freedom of movement.
Back pain following pregnancy
Many women continue to experience back pain after giving birth. Possible causes:
- After-effects of pregnancy: The ligaments loosen during pregnancy. Muscles and tendons, especially in the abdomen and pelvic floor region, have become severely overstretched. This is why low back pain can continue beyond birth.
- Lifting and carrying the baby: Carrying your baby feels unfamiliar at first. Adopting the same, one-sided carrying position can put a strain on the back.
- Psychological strain: Despite all the joy that comes with a new baby, a young mother also bears a new, great responsibility: Under certain circumstances, a lack of sleep can increase the level of mental stress. This, in turn, can also manifest itself in the form of back pain.
Women should always take back pain after giving birth seriously. Various options are available to alleviate the symptoms: These range from wearing a support or orthosis to taking medication and doing physiotherapy exercises. We have summarised all medi products for pregnancy on our overview page:
Back pain during pregnancy: Always seek out a medical check-up!
Pregnant women experiencing low back pain should consult their doctor, especially if the pain is sudden or persistent.8 During a consultation and examination, a doctor is then able to rule out that complications during pregnancy are the cause of the back pain.
The professional opinion counts
During pregnancy, a regular medical examination of the expectant mother and her child is particularly important. If the doctor makes a diagnosis during pregnancy, he or she will arrange for the necessary therapy. In the event of vein or back issues, the doctor can prescribe suitable medical aids from medi as needed. You can obtain these from trained specialist staff in specialist medical stores.
Fit and active during pregnancy
Lumbar support for stabilisation during pregnancy
How to support your back, abdomen and veins during pregnancy
1 Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung: Rückenschmerzen. URL: www.familienplanung.de/schwangerschaft/beschwerden-und-krankheiten/beschwerden/rueckenschmerzen/ (07.09.2020).
3 Bundesärztekammer (BÄK): Nationale Versorgungsleitlinie – Nicht-spezifischer Kreuzschmerz. URL: www.awmf.org/uploads/tx_szleitlinien/nvl-007k_S3_Kreuzschmerz_2018-02.pdf (07.09.2020).
4 Bundesministerium für Gesundheit (BMG): Rücken- und Kreuzschmerzen. URL: gesund.bund.de/ruecken-und-kreuzschmerzen (07.09.2020).
5 Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung: Rückenschmerzen. URL: www.familienplanung.de/schwangerschaft/beschwerden-und-krankheiten/beschwerden/rueckenschmerzen/ (07.09.2020).
6 Deutsche Ärztegesellschaft für Akupunktur e.V.: Geburtsvorbereitung. URL: www.daegfa.de/PatientenPortal/Akupunktur.Wo_hilft_Akupunktur.Geburtsvorbereitung.aspx. (07.09.2020).
7 Berufsverband der Frauenärzte e.V. (BVF): Kreuzschmerzen in der Schwangerschaft. URL: www.frauenaerzte-im-netz.de/erkrankungen/rueckenschmerzen/kreuzschmerzen-in-der-schwangerschaft/ (07.09.2020).
8 Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung: Rückenschmerzen. URL: www.familienplanung.de/schwangerschaft/beschwerden-und-krankheiten/beschwerden/rueckenschmerzen/ (04.09.2020).