Causes of Pregnancy / Postpartum Back Pain
In Hong Kong, low back pain is a common problem. On average, more than 80% of people have suffered from low back pain at different stages of their lives. In particular, most women would experience varying degrees of back pain or low back pain during pregnancy or after giving birth (the postpartum period).
During pregnancy, the weight of the growing fetus will alter the mother's center of gravity, causing the pelvis to tilt forward. In order to increase the space of the pelvic cavity and to prepare for childbirth, the ligaments between the pelvic bones will naturally become loose or even overstretched under the influence of the hormone, relaxin. This will cause the muscles supporting the joints of the lower back and pelvis to be overstrained, particularly the hip muscles. Pain near the sacroiliac joint, pubic joint, and lumbar spine are common. Furthermore, in order to compensate for the shift of the center of gravity, the upper back will naturally lean back, which increases the curvature of the lumbar spine, causing low back pain, shoulder and neck strain. If you have been suffering from low back pain even before pregnancy, symptoms may be aggravated throughout your pregnancy. Therefore, it is appropriate to deal with the old problems before planning to become pregnant to avoid more pain during pregnancy.
Causes of Postpartum Back Pain
Low back pain may be very distressful for many women after childbirth. During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles are excessively stretched by the growing fetus, especially the deep core muscle - transversus abdominis, and its protective function on the lumbar joints is significantly weakened. Even though the burden of the belly has been greatly reduced, it is inevitable that there will still be a tendency to overuse the lumbar muscles which may cause muscle strain and spinal joint injuries. In addition, daily activities in taking care of a newborn, such as breastfeeding, changing diapers, bathing for the baby, etc., all involve maintaining a certain static posture or repetitive movements. If improper postures are used, it may result in overstrained muscles and joints leading to chronic Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI). Many chronic pain conditions that linger years after pregnancy stem from postpartum back pain.
How to relieve Pregnancy Back Pain / Postpartum Back Pain?
You may try some of the tips below to avoid or relieve back pain during or after pregnancy:
1. Exercise the body appropriately
Regular exercises with optimal intensity during pregnancy can not only increase muscle endurance, but also increase the flexibility of the body, which can reduce pressure on the spine. For most pregnant women, at least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic and muscle-building exercises are appropriate every day. Exercises such as walking, swimming or yoga are safe during pregnancy and can strengthen the back and core mucles. In addition, you can also do squats and lunges to strengthen the gluteals and leg muscles, and stretching to increase the flexibility of the spine in order to support your growing body and to help prevent back pain. Please ask your chiropractor for advice on appropriate exercises to do during and after your pregnancy.
2. Ice and hot compresses
Heat and ice compresses may help ease some of the symptoms of low back pain. First apply the ice pack to the painful area for up to 20 minutes each time. After two to three days, switch to a hot compress on the painful area. Remember not to apply heat to the abdomen during pregnancy.
3. Be conscious of your posture
Both prolonged sitting and standing may contribute to low back pain, especially if you adopt a poor posture which causes extra strain to the spine. This is particularly true during pregnancy. Be consciously aware of how you are sitting at work or sleeping so as to prevent low back pain. For example, when sleeping on your side, you may put a pillow between your knees to avoid twisting your lower back; when sitting at the desk, you may use a foot rest to maintain a 90-degree angle behind your knees, or use a lumbar roll to support your lower back. This would maintain a normal lumbar curve which helps prevent slouching.
4. How can Chiropractic treatment help relieve Pregnancy Back Pain / Postpartum Back Pain?
Chiropractic treatment not only effectively relieves back pain, but also restores normal joint function. Whether a pregnant patient is suffering from acute or chronic low back pain, symptomatic relief is the first task. Chiropractic treatment does not involve the use of medicine or any invasive procedures. Under normal circumstances, it is a very safe and effective treatment for pregnant women without any undesirable side effects of pain medicine. Chiropractors apply a high-velocity, low-amplitude force to the patient's spinal joints to correct any misalignment to allow the nervous system to function normally, thereby supporting the healthy development of the fetus. At the same time, spinal adjustment / manipulation helps maintain the correct posture, flexibility and stability of the spine to ensure a smooth pregnancy and delivery process.
With proper treatment and adopting lifestyle changes according to your chiropractor’s advice, most of the low back pain can be alleviated. Say goodbye to pregnancy back pain / postpartum back pain!* A proper diagnosis has to be obtained for all of the above conditions before an appropriate combination of treatments will be provided. This is just a list of possible treatments for the individual condition but not all of them may be necessary, nor is it limited to those listed only.