5 Ways to Ease Back Pain While Pregnant

Back Pain During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, especially if you are well into the second/third trimester, lower back pain may be your constant companion. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 50-70% of pregnant women experience back pain1. It may be dull and just an annoyance or it may be more intense. Whatever the case, there are steps you can take to ease the back pain and keep it at bay.

Causes of prenatal back pain

Before trying any method of pain relief, it is helpful to know what is causing your back pain. While pregnant, there are many factors that can contribute to your back pain. These factors include2:

Weight gain: While pregnant, you will gain between 20 and 30 pounds (depending on your pre-pregnancy weight. This puts increased strain and pressure on your back.

Hormonal changes: In preparation for birth, your body releases a hormone called relaxin. This hormone loosens your pelvic muscles but can also loosen your back muscles. This can lead to pain and discomfort.

Posture changes: To adjust to pregnancy weight gain, you may subconsciously change your posture. This change can also cause strain on your back.

Muscle separation: To accommodate your growing uterus, your abdominal muscles separate which can worsen your back pain.

Stress: In general, emotional stress can have physical consequences. The same is true during pregnancy. If you are more stressed than normal, you may experience back pain or even spasms.

With these causes in mind, here are six tactics you can try to help reduce your back pain while pregnant.

Work on your posture

As you grow, you will find yourself leaning backward to avoid tipping over. Since this puts strain on your back muscles, leaning backward will worsen your back pain. To keep good posture while pregnant and relieve back pain, remember:

Hold your chest high.

Keep your shoulders back and relaxed.

Stand up straight.

Wear a support belt

Don’t lock your knees while standing.

When sitting, use a chair that supports your back

Rest your feet on a footrest while sitting2,3.

Sleep on your side

Sleeping on your side will help take stress off your back, especially if you sleep with your knees bent with a pillow in between them. You can also place a pillow behind your back. Above all, do not sleep on your back.

Sleeping on your side has additional benefits on top of relieving back pain. Pregnant women are told to sleep on their side instead of their back because it optimizes blood flow to the baby. Sleeping on your back can cut off blood flow. It can also cut off your oxygen as your baby and other organs push up against your lungs.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise has numerous benefits during pregnancy. It helps manage healthy weight gain, prepare your body for birth, and reduce stress. It can also help reduce back pain. Exercise strengthens your muscles which can ease the stress on your spine2. Simply going on walks can reduce the stress and pain.

Swimming is a great exercise to do while pregnant. It not only helps strengthen your muscles, but it takes the extra weight off your spine.

As with everything during pregnancy, check with your physician before starting a new exercise routine—especially if you are performing exercises to strengthen your back/abdomen.

Apply heat and cold

With your doctor’s permission, alternating between heat and cold can help ease your back pain. It can help relieve excess muscle tension. But remember, do not apply heat to your abdomen2.

For a cold compress, consider using a bag of frozen veggies or ice wrapped in a towel (so it isn’t too cold!). For heat, you can use a heating pad, a warm water bottle or a rice bag. Whatever is comfortable and works best for you.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is not just for injury recovery. It is a great option for pregnant women who experience pain and discomfort. Physical therapy can not only help reduce back pain but can help prepare your body for childbirth. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “Physical therapists (PTs) work with individuals to develop a treatment plan to decrease pain by identifying and addressing its causes1.”

A PT can help you find what causes your back pain and how to feel relief. Typical triggers your physical therapist will look for are


Joint alignment,

Muscle strength,

Flexibility, and

Nerve involvement1.

When to see a doctor

Back pain is typically not a cause for concern during pregnancy. However, if your back pain becomes severe, is sharp or comes out of the blue, turns into cramping, or makes it difficult to urinate, call your physician.

Severe back pain can be a sign of a urinary tract infection or even preterm labor.

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1- Going to Physical Therapy for Relieving Pain During Your Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. N.p., 28 Jan. 2016. Web. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/pregnancy-and-physical-therapy/.

2- Back Pain in Pregnancy. WebMD. WebMD, n.d. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/back-pain-in-pregnancy#1. 

3- “Back pain during pregnancy: 7 tips for relief.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 05 Apr. 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20046080.

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