(Title of this post to be said like a pirate).
This is not a new complaint for me… I’ve have on-off back pain since my early teens. Mostly mechanical in nature, worsening after sports and bending over. My dear parents carted me off for X-rays and we found that I had (have) sacralisation of the lumbar spine. Sounds dramatic… but isn’t really.
Here’s a plain-English explanation of the condition and here’s also a pic (‘normal’ on the left, one variation of ‘sacralisation’ on the right):
ANYWAY… in the last few weeks I’ve been getting a lot more back pain… is it because I’ve got this ‘pre-existing’ spine condition (I feel like Quasimodo when I type that)… or is it just another ‘pregnancy complaint’, and what’s the best way to manage it?
Here’s what I found:
Back pain during pregnancy is VERY common (it affects 50-70% of pregnant mammas). It’s more common in women who are overweight, or who have had back pain prior to pregnancy.
Some reasons for the back pain:
- Hormones (of course!): relaxin causing mischief again, loosening your ligaments;
- Posture: it starts changing due to your change in centre of gravity (especially increased lumbar lordosis – the curvature of your lower spine becomes more pronounced); you also make other postural changes due to your increasing size (and increasing discomfort!);
- Additional weight: increased weight will put increased pressure on joints, including your spine;
- Stress: some hypothesise that stressors associated with pregnancy (mental, physical, socio-economic) manifest as increased discomfort and pain, including back pain.
What to do about it?
- Keep your back (and in fact your whole body) strong with regular exercise, including exercise that strengthens your core;
- As per your pre-pregnancy state, use your legs (and not your back) when you need to pick up something from the floor or carry something heavy;
- Avoid high heels – honestly, I know that heels make you feel fab (trust me, I’m only 5 ft 5, I know) but they’re not good for anything much in terms of your health/ body;
- Conservative measures for reducing pain: ice/heat are safe, braces/support devices are unlikely dangerous but have questionable efficacy;
- Medications: avoid if possible, Panadol is safe.
When to contact your doctor
- When the pain is so bad it interferes with your daily life;
- If you have rhythmic cramping pain – it may not be back pain, it may be something more sinister, like pre-term labour;
- If your GP is single and really good looking, and you suspect he has a secret yearning for your hot pregnant body*
* Again I’m obliged to say that I’m well aware of the Code of Conduct, and it’s not a good idea for doctor and patient to be ‘involved’… that being said, Dr Hot GP could refer your care elsewhere, and you could go on a nice date or something…
Here is a review article by yours truly on the Management of Acute Low Back Pain for your perusal. Please note that is refers to all types of acute back pain and while there’s a lot of important information in there, some may not be relevant if you’re pregnant (eg. there are very real risks with using NSAIDs during pregnancy).
- Australian Medical Council (amc.org.au)
- Antonucci R, Zaffanello M, Puxeddu E, Porcella A, Cuzzolin L, Pilloni MD, Fanos V. Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in pregnancy: impact on the fetus and newborn. Curr Drug Metab. 2012 May 1;13(4):474-90.
- Yuen NYF. Management of acute low back pain. HK Pract 2010;32:95-101.