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Back Pain During Pregnancy

Back pain is common in pregnancy and can be divided into two categories: True back pain and Pelvic girdle pain (PGP).

True back pain occurs when the ligaments, muscles, discs and joints become strained and can be affected by posture, weakness or poor lifting techniques. Any pain similar to this felt during pregnancy will have already existed previously. Any back pain felt towards the end of the day or if you have been on your feet for long periods will have been caused by fatigue in the muscles and a stretch in the ligaments from the weight of your body and the baby.

Sciatica during pregnancy can occur when there is inflammation or pressure from the back onto the sciatic nerve. This can cause pain into the buttock, down the leg and into the foot. Contrary to popular belief, sciatica is not caused by the baby pushing on the nerve. This is not very common; however, with less than one per cent complaining of this pain during pregnancy and it may well have arisen whether or not you were pregnant.

Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) occurs as a result of pregnancy and needs to be managed very differently to back pain. It is a collection of uncomfortable symptoms caused by a misalignment or stiffness of your pelvic joints at either the back or front of your pelvis. PPGP is not harmful to your baby, but it can cause severe pain around your pelvic area and make it difficult for you to get around. Factors that may make a woman more likely to develop PPGP include:

  • a history of lower back or pelvic girdle pain
  • previous injury to the pelvis, for example from a fall or accident
  • having PPGP in a previous pregnancy
  • a hard physical job

What treatment is available to me?

  1.  Massage
    Soft tissue or Swedish massage is recommended during pregnancy because it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts during pregnancy. The key is to find a certified pregnancy massage therapist who will massage you during all the trimesters following appropriate protocol for each.For more information into massage during pregnancy please visit the following links:
  1. Acupuncture
    Acupuncture is very safe to have during pregnancy and is an effective option at a time when many women choose to avoid taking medicine for minor ailments. Research also suggests that it may help to improve the blood flow to the uterus and help to boost your energy levels too.It is essential that you choose an acupuncturist who is trained and a member of a professional body such as the British Acupuncture Council. For more information or medical research on acupuncture during pregnancy please visit the following links:
  1. Heat
    Heating pads are generally safe to use during pregnancy, as long as you aren’t placing the heating pad directly onto your belly. Research has shown that women should try to keep their core body temperature below 102.2° when pregnant, however applying a heat back to the lower back will not cause your overall body temperature to rise and can help ease discomfort during pregnancy. If you are worried about using heat during pregnancy try the other following options:
  • Maternity belt or back support
  • Warm bath soak
  • Ice
  1.  TENS
    TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A maternity TENS machine consists of a hand-held controller connected by two sets of fine leads to four sticky pads. This is a safe way to help you to cope with your back pain and is best used in combination with other treatments such as advice and exercises. Ask for advice on how to use TENS from your GP or physiotherapist.
  1.  Home Exercises
    Home exercises such as Pilates are a safe and effective to assist with breathing, body alignment and to recover body shape and tone after birth. The idea of Pilates during pregnancy is to develop a stable core without putting the body under excess strain. Research has shown that activating the transverse abdominals (deepest abdominal muscles) also activates the pelvic floor. Keeping these muscles strong and supple for the birthing process can also help with any incontinence that you may experience during and after pregnancy. However, unless we take the time to strengthen the abs, pelvis and lower back, muscle soreness and pain during pregnancy can occur.For more information into home exercise programs and Pilates during pregnancy please speak to a fully trained Pilates instructor specializing in pregnancy, or a trained physiotherapist. For more instruction on basic Pilates movements please follow the following links:

We can offer all of these treatments at Mike Varney Physiotherapy to help with your pregnancy related pain, please call us for more information and to book an appointment.

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