One of the most common complaints during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, is suffering from lower back pain.
Most of the time women suffer silently and attribute this pain to their expanding hips, weight gain, and weakening abdominal muscles.
This makes it harder to carry the extra weight that puts a strain on our backs and joints.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy also contribute to the increase in pain that women suffer through.
As our joints begin to loosen while preparing our pelvis for birth, it leads to our gait feeling more unstable and causes pain when we walk, stand, sit down, roll over, stand up, bend, lift, or just move in general it seems.
We tell ourselves “Don’t worry, after this baby is born I’ll go back to normal.” Unfortunately, it isn’t always that quick or easy.
Medical Causes of Postpartum Back pain
Every woman is different, and back pain is different for everyone.
Most people will suffer from some sort of back pain at least once in their life, and many people suffer from chronic back pain even before pregnancy.
Pinpointing the cause of the pain can often be difficult and frustrating.
Your medical professional should be able to review your history and determine a diagnosis.
However, there are some common reasons why pregnant women, and/or postpartum women suffer from back pain near the sacroiliac joint (where the pelvis and spine meet).
Most women who are experiencing a normal, healthy pregnancy can expect to gain 25-30 pounds. Nearly all this weight is supported by the spine and lower back.
As our stomachs are expanding forward, the weight of the baby and fluids in the uterus are building up and adding pounds to our midsection.
This also puts a lot of added pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in this region that can cause pain and discomfort in the back and hips.
After birth, this weight doesn’t melt off right away and as we are not accustomed to carrying this much extra baggage. Our bodies suffer for it as the wear and tear take its toll.
The constant lifting of your baby is also mostly unavoidable and will further exacerbate that strain.
Breastfeeding moms are often so focused on the comfort of their babies and achieving the correct latch, that they often don’t realize that their posture is horrendous!
Nursing typically causes moms to hunch over, curl their backs, and stay in uncomfortable positions with terrible posture for way too long.
During the third trimester, pregnancy causes a hormone called relaxin to be produced that causes the ligaments and joints in the pelvis to relax and prepare for birth.
This, unfortunately also means that our spines become less stable and supportive, as the ligaments loosen. This can lead to feelings of weakness, and pain.
These hormones aren’t produced postpartum, but it does take a few weeks for our bodies to return to our normal hormone functions after our babies are born.
Stress and Anxiety
Bringing home a new baby is one of the most stressful, and anxiety causing events in our lives. This isn’t uncommon for anyone.
When people are stressed, they tend to tense their muscles, especially in the back and shoulders. They get less sleep or fitful sleep, and they don’t take as good of care of themselves.
These all lead to increased back pain postpartum.
Long, Strenuous Labor
Epidurals can also leave a tender, or sore, spot at the site for a few days after birth, but this shouldn’t cause back pain.
If you believe your postpartum back pain could be caused by your epidural, you should seek advice from your medical professional.
Postpartum back pain can put a damper on one of the most exciting times in a new mom’s life and make everyday activities challenging and uncomfortable.
The changes your body went through won’t go away overnight. Your body will begin a whole new round of changes in the fourth trimester, or postpartum phase.
Luckily, there are a lot of ways you can reduce the amount of back pain you endure postpartum.
3 Easy Exercises to Reduce Back Pain
Beginning a gradual exercise program is one of the best ways to reduce postpartum back pain.
Because of the pregnancy hormone relaxin, loosening the ligaments and joints in the spine and pelvis to prepare for the birthing process.
It may take several months for some women to begin feeling strong again.
Beginning a postpartum exercise routine as soon as possible will also help to work off the baby weight gained during pregnancy. Which will also reduce stress on the spine and joints.
Women should never begin an exercise regimen without first consulting with their physician.
Most doctors will allow women to begin a walking routine almost immediately after birth.
Your physician may advise you to limit walks to short distances such as going to the grocery store or around the shopping center until after your 6-week postpartum check.
You should gradually resume your normal daily activities as soon as you feel up to it.
Women that did not have any pregnancy complications and were able to maintain their exercise routines throughout their pregnancy may be able to do more strenuous walking sooner than others.
Swimming is one of the best exercises for anyone that suffers from back pain because it is low impact and reduces stress on the joints, spine, and muscles.
Pool therapy is often recommended for people who suffer from arthritis, chronic back pain, and other bone/joint/muscle conditions. Most gyms with pools offer water aerobics classes, and even pregnancy and postpartum classes.
Before starting Yoga, check with your doctor to ensure your abdominal muscles are healed enough for this type of intense stretching.
If you get the go-ahead, Yoga is a great exercise for strengthening the back and abdominal walls, improving posture, reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep quality, increasing flexibility, and achieving better body alignment.
Yoga can help combat multiple complications that women can face postpartum including postpartum depression, aches and pains, decreased immune systems, hormonal changes, and mood fluctuations.
The best part is that you can do this in the comfort of your own home when a window of time arises.
Youtube has plenty of great instructors offering their content for free. Getting the quiet time will be the hard part… May be worth getting the hubby on board with this one!!
Too much physical activity postpartum can have complications such as increased vaginal bleeding or discharge, an increase in pain, exhaustion, soreness, or elevated heart rate.
So be cautious with your body.
If you feel as though you are in danger of not being able to catch your breath, fainting, or your bleeding has increased dramatically, you should discontinue your exercise and call your medical professional immediately.
Other Tips and Tricks to Manage Back Pain
If you can’t begin an exercise regimen, there are a few more methods you can try to reduce the impact of postpartum back pain.
While they are only minor, anything to provide some relief is a positive.
Rotating hot and cold compresses to the pain area can help to relieve back pain.
Start by applying a cold compress for 10-20 minutes, then switch to hot or warm for another 10-20 minutes.
This can be done a few times a day and should help to relax the back muscles and reduce pain. Consult with your physician to see if this is a viable option for you.
Depending on the type of back pain you are enduring (muscle, nerve, or joint related) this treatment may not be effective.
Be Aware of Posture
Pay attention to how you are sitting and standing. If you are nursing your baby, pay particular attention to if you are hunched over while breastfeeding, whether you are constantly curled around the baby, and how often you are switching positions.
Bad posture is one of the greatest causes of back pain for anyone, not just postpartum or pregnant women. Slouching can put a tremendous amount of strain on our backs, shoulders, and spine.
Try sleeping with a pillow between your knees can take the pressure off the spine. If you work in an office or at a desk, invest in a chair with back support or an attachment for the chair to add support.
Propping your feet up at your desk can also help with proper spine alignment.
Use a Supportive Baby Carrier
If you are picking up the baby a lot when trying to get them to sleep, you may find that strapping them into a baby carrier with excellent back support will be easier for you, and also get them to sleep faster.
Take time out for yourself. Relax. Go on a date night. Take a bubble bath. Ease up!
Stress causes tension, and tension causes back pain. Give yourself a break.
Visit a Chiropractor
While many doctors have varied opinions on holistic medicine, more and more people are seeing the benefits of chiropractors, acupuncture, massage, and other natural medicine practices.
Spinal manipulation has been deemed safe for pregnancy and postpartum when performed by a certified medical professional with a background in prenatal and postnatal care.
Before taking any medications, especially if breastfeeding, consult with your doctor.
However, there are many over the counter medications such as Tylenol, that are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy and can be continued afterward if you have been suffering from back pain.
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are discouraged prenatal but are typically safe to take postpartum if your back pain is being caused by muscle strain.
However, your physician may also suggest a prescription muscle relaxer as well.
Don’t let postpartum back pain get in the way of you enjoying this period.
It will be an inconvenience, and if you take steps to give yourself some extra comfort and a speedy recovery then you will be back to your old self in no time….
Minus the sleep of course.
For More Info on Postpartum Pain Recovery
If you are also suffering from pain in your joints, and stiffness in your muscles outside of your back area we have a great post on dealing with this also.
Have you considered regular massage in your postpartum period? This can be a great way to treat tender muscles and further accelerate that recovery of your back, and other muscles.