It is normal for expecting moms to experience back pain. When you are pregnant, you gain lots of weight fast, your way of walking changes, and your hormones relax the ligaments and joints in your body.
However normal, it is not exciting to think about bearing back pain in addition to the dreaded morning sickness, constipation, rashes, hormonal changes, and even lifestyle changes that accompany pregnancy. Back pain in pregnant women can last up to three months after the delivery, and it is located mainly on hip joints, lower back, mid-back, neck, shoulders, and jaw joint.
You don’t have to endure the pain as one of the ‘sacrifices’ of pregnancy. It is not hard at all to treat and even prevent back pain when you are pregnant; it just takes some self-care treatments and complementary therapies.
The human body has a powerful balance system that adapts in order to keep us straight under many different conditions. This system has two parts:
- The sensory part, which asks, “Where am I?”
- The motor part, which asks, “What am I going to do?”
Nevertheless, any adaptation has its inconveniences. When a woman’s weight increases around 25 pounds, her center of gravity and mass move forward. Right then, the balance system starts working to realign, slowly but steadily, the pelvis and spine to counter balance the extra weight. With time, the center of gravity will move back.
The spinal changes that occur are very foreseeable. The pelvis leans forward, the mid-back glides backwards, and the head and neck move in front of the shoulders. The spine has a natural ‘S’ shape curve caused by the joining of muscles and ligaments. If this curve changes, several muscles will stretch and others will shorten, causing the spine to be unstable, which in turn causes chronic tension in some muscle groups and extra strain on joints. If a muscle maintains a stretched position for far too long, eventually its fibers will elongate and weaken, the same as if a muscle is over-relaxed for extended periods of time, which shortens its fibers.
Another element of the pregnancy back pain equation is shear forces. A person with normal posture experiences downward gravitational and directional shear forces that work with the body to secure the joints into position under load, giving strength and stability to the spine. Pregnant women experience the same gravitational forces but the shear forces change direction to open the lower back joints, giving less stability to the spine. The body feels this, and the lower back muscles tighten to offer support.
During pregnancy, it is very clear which muscles weaken due to stretch and which due to shortening, making it easy for a professional to design an exercise program to strengthen those muscles. Also, appropriate back supports can help alleviate the pain while sitting down.
This is an unavoidable but manageable situation for pregnant women; it just requires the right effort to improve posture given the extra weight that will be endured, and the right preventive measures.
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