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Back Pain in Pregnancy

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Unfortunately back pain during pregnancy is a common problem. There are a number of physical reasons for back pain in pregnancy, some of which include:

  • Pregnancy hormones soften ligaments causing joints to move more than usual. In some cases the ligaments can be strained.
  • Postural problems caused by the growing uterus.
  • Position of baby (particularly towards the end of pregnancy) can compress nerves and cause back pain.

You need not put up with back pain. There are a number of positive steps you can do to help reduce and sometimes eliminate the problem. Firstly it’s important to understand your body’s changes during pregnancy. Then you can implement some simple strategies to manage the problem.
Good posture is very important. Avoid slouching wherever possible. To avoid slouching when sitting – place a rolled up towel or a lumbar cushion behind the lower part of your back. If your lounge chair causes you to slouch – prop yourself up with pillows. Other tips for proper posture include: keeping your shoulders slightly up and back, keep your chin up, your head should be centred over your shoulders, concentrate on using your abdominal muscles to slightly flatten your arch in your back (avoid exaggerating the arch in your back) and keep your knees lightly bent. Avoid high heal shoes.
Sitting straight up after you have been lying down can cause strain on your lower back. Some women find that by sitting up using the correct technique, they can eliminate back pain. When you are laying down simply roll on your side and use your arms to push yourself up. You may need to have your midwife or doctor show you this technique.
Exercise is also important. Strong abdominal muscles reduce the possibility of back pain significantly. Ask your midwife or doctor about appropriate abdominal exercises in pregnancy. If you are a member of a gym, ask a qualified instructor. Walking is a great exercise – a daily walk of 20 to 30 minutes can really help.
You also need to rest. Your need to rest will increase as the pregnancy advances. When sleeping at night, try sleeping on your side. A pillow between your knees will help. Some women purchase a body pillow to provide additional support. Though an extra pillow under your growing tummy will do just as well as the pregnancy progresses. See questions asked for further information.
I have heard women say they had bad back pain during pregnancy, what can I do to avoid back pain?
Back care is very important in pregnancy as it can help eliminate a lot of the discomfort women feel, particularly towards the end of the pregnancy. Probably the number one rule is to avoid bending over with your legs straight – placing excessive strain on your lower back. Pay attention to lifting techniques (no matter how light the load).  Squat down or kneel down to pick up objects off the floor, keeping your back straight.
Correct lifting is especially important if you have a younger child. If kneeling or squatting down to pick up your child becomes difficult, sit in a chair and get your child to climb up onto your lap.
When doing housework be particularly careful with vacuuming –  try lunging with your legs rather than bending your back. When hanging washing on the line – place the laundry basket on a chair so you’re not constantly bending down to pick up the clothes. Position your feet to face the task you’re doing and avoid twisting your upper body. If you’re carrying shopping bags – carry two light bags, one in each hand to even the load rather than carrying one heavy bag.

I am experiencing a lot of back pain in my pregnancy, what natural strategies can I try to alleviate the pain?

The first strategy would be to ensure that you are getting sufficient rest. You may find heat very effective at reducing the discomfort caused by back pain. Apply a hot pack or hot water bottle to the area – careful not to burn yourself. You could also try a nice warm bath or shower. There are various support gadgets available to help support your growing tummy. The most common gadget is a maternity support belt, which provides additional support for your back. Physiotherapists often recommend and fit maternity support belts. Another strategy is to do some strengthening exercises. The pelvic-tilt exercise is the most common exercise recommended. Ask your midwife or doctor how do this exercise correctly. You may find spending some time on your hands and knees will provide some welcome relief from the back pain. In this position you take the baby’s weight of your back. If pain becomes worse, be sure to consult your midwife or doctor.

Who can I see about my back pain in pregnancy?

Ideally first consult your midwife or doctor. They may be able to suggest some simple strategies or exercises that will help. If these strategies do not provide relief they may refer you to one of the following practitioners:

  • Physiotherapist
  • Chiropractor
  • Osteopath
  • Acupuncturist

These practitioners will assess the cause of your back pain in pregnancy and the treatment will vary depending on the cause.

My back pain is getting worse. I have tried heat and wearing a supportive belt. I am currently seeing a physiotherapist for my back pain. I heard about TENS. Can you explain what TENS is and how it works?

Transcutaneous electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is used as pain relief, particularly for chronic pain. Some women even use TENS in labour. TENS is ideal as a non-invasive way of managing back pain. A TENS machine transmits electrical impulses through electrodes that are applied to the skin. The sensation experienced is like ‘buzzing’ or ‘tingling’. The TENS electrodes would be applied to your back at the site of your pain. The electrodes are attached to wires that attach to the TENS machine itself. You control the electrical impulses - making them stronger or weaker as needed for your pain. You can hire or buy a TENS machine. Speak to your midwife, doctor or physiotherapist about the option of using a TENS machine.


  • http://backandneck.about.com/health/backandneck/library/weekly/aa073197.htm (website no longer available)
  • http://dcdoctor.com/pages/rightpages_wellnesscenter/pregnancy/backpain.html
  • www.backrelief.com/prevention/pregnancy.html (website no longer available)
  • www.ehow.com/eHow/eHow/0,1053,9085,00.html - (website no longer available)
  • www.physsportsmed.com/issues/jul_96/colliton.htm (website no longer available)
  • www.prevention.com/healing/doctor/980818.md2.html - (website no longer available)

(27th June 2001)

Jane Palmer is a mother, birth activist and midwife in private practice located in Sydney, Australia. With additional qualifications as a childbirth educator and lactation consultant, Jane works to improve pregnancy, birth and parenting options for families.


16 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

May 12, 2011 12:12am [ 1 ]

I am now 16 weeks pregnant and have a long history of hip and back problems (slipped a disk in my lower back 8 years ago), I've so far trapped my sciatic nerve on both my left and right side - it's my left side with the history though. I've been seeing a chiropractor, but that seems to have aggrovated and increased my pain, I've just started seeing a physio and have also purchased a TENS machine. I've heard that TENS are not recommended in early pregnancy as they can bring on early labour. Is this a risk or with chronic pain I'd feel more comfortable using TENS than taking medication. I've obviously still got a long way to go, so I'm concerned my back pain is only going to get worse.

Sep 28, 2011 7:31pm [ 2 ]

I am now 6 weeks pregnant and experiencing a severe headache and tommyache from my left hand side every day. I do take panadol whenever I can not handle it but still I feel the same. What causes that? and What can I do?

Sep 28, 2011 8:08pm [ 3 ]

Hi Jennifer - there is no evidence that TENS is harmful in pregnancy. However to err on the side of caution avoid speak to your midwife or doctor prior to use. Place electrodes on your back and avoid your abdomen. There are lots of different techniques to treat back pain which includes osteopathy, physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care and seeing a massage therapist. Try lots of different options - you might find a combination of options works for you.

Hi PPeace - Please contact your midwife or doctor for advise ASAP - to make sure you do not have an ectopic pregnancy or another medical condition.

Oct 11, 2011 5:42pm [ 4 ]

My little girl is about to turn 1 in a couple of weeks. I suffered from low back pain during my last pregnancy and my husband bought me the Kosmodisk Active Sports Belt. I used it throughout my pregnancy and it really helped me with my back pain. I still use it occasionally as my little bundle of joy is getting bigger and heavier and always wants to be carried around still. What it does is provide warmth along with a gentle massage for the time I wear it. I found it of real benefit and recommend it to anyone.

Dec 9, 2011 4:34pm [ 5 ]

hi, i'm 14wks pregnant 'n have severe lower back pain, just above my bottom 'n through my whole bottom area..its a cross between a pain/numb feeling 'n it gets hot..any ideas whats causing it or sny tips would be greatly appreciated.. thanks in advance!

Jul 20, 2012 8:53am [ 6 ]

am only 5 to 6 weeks an hv real bad back pain this is my 3rd child an hv never been this bad at real earlier stage i cnt sit for 10 mins without hvn to move and sleep i dnt no wat tht means now as i cnt get comfy in bed either help wat can i do

Sep 28, 2012 5:09am [ 7 ]

i am 16 weeks pregnant and my lower back hurts to where i am almost in tears. I was school and sitting really hurts and sleeping at night is really hard. What can i do to help it out ?

Mar 8, 2013 8:31am [ 8 ]

I'm 27 weeks pregnant with my second baby, first is 27 months! I had no back pain with my first pregnancy but have had lower back pain from aprox 20 weeks. I have got much bigger much quicker this time around and haven't done slot of exercise since first pregnancy. My midwife has advised me of Do's and Dont's and I have seen my GP also who advised paracetamol and codeine if pain is unbearable. If this was only to last 2-3 weeks I could manage but 13+ weeks and I am at the end of my teather! The pain is into my buttocks and hurts when I stand walk sit or lay! Hot baths help a little, husband massaging eases at the time and paracetamol helps a little? My midwife never offered physio referral or TENS or support belt?

Aug 5, 2013 12:58pm [ 9 ]

Hi I am 30 week pregnant and was having sore hips so my midwife refered me to physio which was helping me out so far along with massage from my husband and a belt provided by my midwife. Yesterday i was doing cleaning and while making bed i accidently lift tht heavy mattress and which in turn gave me instant back ache. I cant even stand on my feet. It feels likee my vertebrae got interlocked or something. Cudnt sleep whole night. I dont know whom should i consult at this moment. M in panic situation.

Hayley Wells
Oct 3, 2013 1:24am [ 10 ]

Hi, just reading what most of you have written.. I've been diagnosed with sacroilliac joint dystfunction an I'd recommend you see a physio or atleast speak to you go about the possibility of it being that as I'm yet to have kids an I'm suffering from it now, the joint basically dtabilises your back an moves during pregnancy ,it's extremely difficult to stand walk an sit for to long an relief is from heat packs an luckily for me I can take heavy pain relief. Recommend the tens machine for your back if you can handle it. Only found this by searching in Google for a support group hehe but good luck

Nov 29, 2013 9:38pm [ 11 ]

Hi!i am 9 almost 10 weeks pregnant and experiecing severe back pains on my lower back.this is my secound pregnacy,had a miscarriage the 1st 1 at around 8 weeks.should i be worried and what could be the cause or possible problems from this.thank you

Cindy Perez
May 24, 2014 11:15am [ 12 ]

I am 21 weeks pregnant and I have really bad back pain idk what to do about it :(

Jul 9, 2014 6:50pm [ 13 ]

I had bad burning sensation in lower back last yr with 6 week pregnancy and miscarried. im 6 weeks again now and have that same burning sensation ;-( worried

Feb 18, 2015 11:04am [ 14 ]

Hi, I'm 16 Weeks pregnant and am having severe back pain & stomach pain to were I am literally crying. Im also having severe vomit. What should I do? Any suggestions on what I should do?

Aug 6, 2015 2:26am [ 15 ]

Hi Im 12 weeks along with my second my lower back and hip has slipped out. In the worst pain its now sending pain down left leg and along my lower tummy. Using heat packs an rub along with small amounts of pain killers. I'm worried all the pain Im in will cause me to go into miscarriage.

Dec 8, 2015 2:43pm [ 16 ]

Im also suffering really bad sciatica and im also using a tens machine as the vibration will not harm you or yhe fetus ...as they baby get more vibrations and jurked around more just through day to day activites hope this helps

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