Did you know back pain is one of the most common health problems worldwide? Medical experts estimate that up to 80 percent of adults will deal with back pain at least once during their lifetime. Though some of these cases will involve lingering chronic pain, most back pain can easily be alleviated or even cured with the right treatment. This is especially true for lower-back pain during pregnancy.
How common is lower-back pain in pregnancy?
Lower-back pain in pregnancy is extremely common. Up to 70 percent of women will experience back pain during their pregnancy, but most will find the pain completely disappears as soon as they deliver and start postpartum recovery.
Some of the lower-back pain felt during pregnancy is due to obvious physical changes, like a growing baby bump. As you progress in your pregnancy, the increasing weight causes your center of gravity to shift. This affects your posture and puts additional strain on your lower-back muscles as they work overtime to support your belly.
Subtle shifts in hormones can also cause lower back pain during pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy, your body releases hormones that help loosen your joints and ligaments to make it easier to deliver your baby. This loosening and relaxing means you don't get the same amount of support that you had before your pregnancy — and that puts the burden of supporting you and baby squarely onto your lower back muscles. Add in a little stress and anxiety to this flood of hormones and you’ve got the perfect recipe for tense and tired muscles that will alert you to their fatigue through pain, aches and stiffness.
How early in pregnancy does back pain start?
While back pain during pregnancy is very common, you may be surprised to find yourself experiencing lower-back pain earlier than you had expected. Most women start to feel lower-back pain sometime between the fifth and seventh months of pregnancy, when the size of the belly really starts growing, but some women have reported lower back pain even earlier. Some women start to have back pain as early as the first month!
So is lower back pain normal in early pregnancy? Yes! The truth is that back pain can start at any time during your pregnancy, though you’re more likely to start feeling it early on if you were overweight or already had back pain before pregnancy.
What does lower back pain in early pregnancy feel like?
In early pregnancy, lower back pain will often start out as muscle stiffness or tenderness, then progressively grow in intensity until it manifests as a dull ache or a sharp, burning pain. It’s not uncommon to only feel this pain on one side of your back or feel it radiate down into the back of your thigh or leg. Sometimes the pain can even radiate as far as your feet!
How can I relieve lower back pain during pregnancy?
There are many different types of treatments and activities that you can safely use to help relieve lower-back pain. Here’s some of our favorite ways for how to relieve lower-back pain during pregnancy:
Apply ice or heat. Both cold and heat packs can provide targeted relief for your lower back to help reduce muscle swelling and loosen stiff muscles. You can even find hot and cold gel packs like our Upsie Gel Pack for Pregnancy Back Pain Relief that can be frozen or heated as needed.
Stretch regularly. There are many pregnancy-safe stretches that can help ease aching muscles. Consult your doctor or a physical therapist for recommendations based on the type of pain you are experiencing.
Exercise. Frequent low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and stationary cycling help keep your muscles strong and flexible so they can give you better support.
Sleep on your side. Lower-back pain can often be relieved by lying down on your side and placing a pillow between your knees. This position takes the weight off of your back and keeps your spine and hips properly aligned. If you’re worried about rolling over in your sleep, check out the Belly Bandit® S.O.S. Side Sleeper Pregnancy Pillow.
Wear a pregnancy support band. This is especially helpful towards the end of your pregnancy when your belly is at its largest, but you can start wearing a pregnancy support band as early as you’d like. A support band like our Upsie Belly® Pregnancy Support Band gently lifts your belly to help take some of the weight off of your tired lower-back muscles.
What if nothing helps?
If you are experiencing intense back pain, consult your doctor. Though it is not uncommon, severe back pain can sometimes be a symptom of a larger health concern. Your doctor will be able to verify that everything is normal and your baby is healthy. They may also be able to give you further suggestions for treating the pain.
If none of these at-home treatments are helping or if you feel intense, debilitating back pain, reach out to a professional. Prenatal chiropractic treatments and prenatal massage therapy are both great options for helping manage more severe back pain during pregnancy. You may also consider visiting an orthopedic surgeon to learn more about potential medications or injections that may help relieve your pain.