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How to relieve back pain during pregnancy?

Over 50% of women experience low back pain during their pregnancy. In the last trimester up to 90% of pregnant women suffer back and abdominal pain. This pain has a few causes. First one is a significant increase in body weight particularly in the abdominal (stomach) area. As a result of these body changes, center of gravity displaces and strain in lower back becomes much stronger, than in our normal life. Note that back pain during early pregnancy is also common.

The hormone relaxin is the second explanation for low back pain. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is present in 10 times its normal concentration in the female body. Relaxin is good in the sense that its function — as you might guess from the name — is to relax the joints in the pelvis, the hips begin to expand and the connective tissues soften to accommodate the expansion of the birth canal so the baby has room to pass through it. Unfortunately, relaxin also causes abnormal motion in many other joints of the body, causing inflammation and pain.

Management of back and abdominal pain in pregnancy generally includes use of proper body mechanics, performance of appropriate exercise and wearing a maternity support belt.

Body mechanics: Watch your posture. Do not stoop. Proper posture is essential to avoiding unnecessary stress to supporting structures.

Obviously pregnant women wouldn't be able to sleep on their bellies, and sleeping on the back would have the same effect, in the opposite direction, because it has the uterus pressing down on the back muscles and the nerves. Again, lying on the side with pillow between the legs would be the most comfortable way to sleep.

Exercise: It would be aerobic, bicycling, swimming, yoga or stair climbing. Downhill skiing, water skiing, horseback riding and other extreme activities should be avoided.

Here are primary exercising tips:

  • Regular, consistent activity (at least 3 days a week).
  • Vigorous exercise should not be performed in hot and humid climates.
  • Deep, dynamic stretching should be avoided due to connective tissue laxity. Gentle, static stretching is recommended.
  • A 5-minute warm-up session should be performed before beginning a workout.
  • Heart rate should be monitored frequently during exercise. Heart rate is not to exceed 140 beats per minute (bpm). Light to moderate exercise intensity is recommended. A good indicator for moderate exercise is being able to converse with ease.
  • If strenuous exercise is done (only for those who are physically fit prior to pregnancy), it should be limited to 15 minutes.
  • Plenty of liquids should be ingested during exercise. Pregnant women are at a greater risk of dehydrating. (Dehydration increases the body’s core temperature and could result in harm to the fetus. Core body temperature should not exceed 38°C.)
  • Women who are just starting an exercise program upon becoming pregnant should begin at a low intensity level and gradually increase the level of intensity.
  • Exercises requiring a supine position (lying with back flat on the floor) should be avoided. 

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