As your belly grows and you get closer to meeting your precious baby, you may experience aches and pains in your upper and lower back.
Many women experience back pain during pregnancy. Body weight increases of an average of 15 to 25 percent can cause a greater burden on tendons, ligaments, and joints. Hormonal factors and an increase in weight in the front of the body can shift your center of gravity. This can even affect the alignment of the spine.
Upper back pain is usually caused by poor posture and movement patterns, but it can also be affected by the weight of breast tissue, a weak upper back, and weak neck muscles.
Check out these five tips to help ease your upper back pain during pregnancy.
How to improve upper back pain during pregnancy
1. Improve posture
Extended periods of sitting and increased time spent on a computer or cell phone can contribute to a hunched over posture and forward head position. This can cause the muscles of the upper back to weaken, leading to pain around the shoulder blades and neck.
Try this to improve posture:
- Have your partner take a photo of you standing beside a blank wall.
- Stand as you normally would, sideways to the camera.
- Looking at the picture, observe how you are standing. Do your shoulders roll forward? Is your head directly over your shoulders? Do you have an excessive arch in your lower back?
- If so, pay more attention to this throughout the day. Every time you walk by a mirror, try to stand up tall.
The key to creating balance between muscle groups is to stretch those that are tight, and to strengthen muscles that are weak. Stretching the muscles of the neck and upper back can significantly help decrease pain.
Try this stretch:
- Sit up tall and gently tilt your head to the side, using your hand to assist.
- Continue until you feel a stretch down the side of your neck and hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Now tilt your head forward and look down into your armpit, using your hand on the back of your head to assist. You should feel a stretch down the back of the neck into the base of the skull.
- Repeat on the other side.
3. Get a prenatal massage
Getting a prenatal massage during pregnancy can have many benefits, including:
- reduced anxiety
- decreased symptoms of depression
- less muscle aches and joint pains
- improved labor outcomes and newborn health
Swedish massage is the preferred method, as it aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic circulation.
It’s important to seek out a qualified massage therapist certified in prenatal massage. They will know how to address specific pregnancy needs and make sure you are comfortably positioned. Some massage therapists use a special pregnancy pillow that allows space for your belly so you can continue to lie face-down or on your side.
4. Myofascial release
Fascia is the thin sheath of connective tissue that wraps around all your muscles and organs. Fascia can become adhered to underlying tissues, which can cause poor movement patterns and pain.
A lacrosse ball massage is a method of self-myofascial release. It involves rolling a massage ball along sore muscles to help break up adhesions and allow the muscles to move freely underneath the fascia.
Here’s how to perform a lacrosse ball massage:
- Grab a lacrosse or tennis ball and stand with your back facing a wall.
- Slide the ball between the wall and the inside edge of your shoulder blade.
- Slowly move up and down the wall, rolling the ball in small circles until you find a tender area.
- Continue to roll over this area for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
5. Heat and rest
The most important thing to remember during pregnancy is to listen to your body and rest when needed. If you’re experiencing increased pain and problems in your upper back, consider taking a day away from the computer, and opt for gentle stretches instead of challenging workouts.
You can also try applying a warm compress to your neck and shoulders. Never leave the heat on for more than 15 minutes, and be mindful of the intensity. Pregnant women should take caution about raising their core body temperature, which is why saunas and hot tubs aren’t recommended.
Always consult your doctor before trying any therapeutic treatments for back pain. Every pregnancy is different, and it’s always best to get approval from your doctor. Avoid overstretching muscles or deep massage, as they can cause strain and lead to more pain. Listen to your body and do everything in moderation.
Back pain during pregnancy can be frustrating, but often resolves after the baby is born. These natural remedies can ease your back pain and help you enjoy your pregnancy to the fullest!
Are any medications safe to take for aches and pains during pregnancy?
As a first line of over-the-counter medical treatment, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is considered safe to take in pregnancy, if taken in the proper indicated doses. A caregiver may prescribe some stronger medications if they think it is indicated. Again, these are usually safe if taken as prescribed. Most nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen are generally not considered safe in pregnancy, particularly after the first trimester.Michael Weber, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.