A recent OneFitMama study showed that approximately 1 in 7 postnatal mums experienced lower back pain sometime during the third trimester and after their baby had been born, with many saying the pain had worsened by the time their baby was six weeks old. Here we take a look at some of the possible causes of lower back pain and how you can help reduce the symptoms.
WHAT IS LOWER BACK PAIN?
Lower back pain is pain that is mainly found in the lower half of your back but can also affect the hips, pelvic region and coccyx. Sometimes this can also be coupled with pain in the thighs as you over compensate for the pain in your back.
For some women this pain can be debilitating and agonising and for others it can just be a niggling discomfort depending on medical history and pain threshold. If you experienced lower back pain before you became pregnant than you are more likely to suffer likewise if there is a family history of lower back pain too.
WHAT CAN CAUSE LOWER BACK PAIN?
There a number of factors that can contribute to the likelihood of lower back pain although some women may experience lower back without any of these factors and vice versa.
*Additional Weight - During pregnancy you will most likely gain between 25lb and 35lb which is completely normal and an important part of growing your baby however this additional weight will have an impact on your body and will mean extra work for your joints and muscles. This can lead to pain in some areas where ligaments are already strained due to your growing uterus and the increased levels of the hormone Relaxin.
*Posture - During pregnancy as your tummy grows your centre of gravity changes which in turn impacts on your posture. The common image of pregnant women arching their back with their beautiful bumps pushing forward is a very real problem for mums and despite your best attempts towards the end of your pregnancy you will be able to do little to avoid it. This curvature of the spine will of course put pressure on your lower back which will in turn start to cause aches and pains.
After your little one arrives unfortunately although your bump no longer causes this arching of the back the simple day to day care of a new born brings with it a new set of postural issues. Lifting your baby in and out of their crib, pushing the pushchair and carrying the car seat all cause your spine and hips to sit in unnatural positions which can exasperate back pain. Other things such as carrying your little one on one hip, hunching over while you feed and leaning back whilst your wind your little one over your shoulder is also going to be doing more harm than good.
*Core Weakness - Another major factor when it comes to back pain is your core, yes it is still there we promise! Your spine is supported by both your back and core muscles and so it makes perfect sense that when one half of that duo starts to slack the other will have to work extra hard to do the job, which can lead to pain. During pregnancy your core will naturally weaken as your tummy muscles stretch and sometimes separate to make way for your baby. For many women this stretching and separating does not rectify straight after birth leaving you with a weak core long after your baby has been evicted, this is called Diastasis Recti. You can find out more about that in our video here
HOW LONG WILL LOWER BACK PAIN LAST?
The simple answer to this is as long as you let it. If you make changes and begin working on repairing your body then your pain should subside within a few months however if left untreated lower back pain can go on for years.
WHAT CAN I DO TO EASE MY LOWER BACK PAIN?
There a number of things that you can do to help ease your back pain however its really important to chat to your doctor or midwife if you are concerned or if you don't notice any improvement after making these changes.
*The easiest thing to do first of all is to improve your posture and think about how you perform certain functions throughout the day and how you can modify them to protect your back. You can watch a video about this here.
*Exercise is really important when it comes to postnatal lower back pain recovery. Strengthening your back muscles, core muscles and the supporting muscles around it such as the hamstring and quad muscles. A good place to start is with good old squats and if you can swim that will really help too. You want to avoid any really high impact exercise until your body has recovered from delivery and you are feeling stronger but there are lots of specialist classes you can go to post birth and most you won't need childcare for. You can find your local OneFitMama class here
*Rest is sometimes just as important as exercise so make sure you make time to rest up when you need to and don't be too proud to ask for help if you need to. You'll be surprised how many people will be queuing up for new baby cuddles if you need to put your feet up for an hour.
*There are some instances where rest or exercise just wont do the trick and in this instance don't feel guilty for seeking pain relief. Speak to your midwife about safe medicines if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as there plenty of options depending on how severe the pain. There are no awards for suffering in silence so make sure if you can't tolerate the pain you do something about it.
Finally the most important thing to remember about back pain during or after pregnancy is that no matter how common it is that doesn't mean you have to tolerate being in pain. If these tips don't help then see your doctor and ask to be referred for physiotherapy, your body has done an incredible job and if it needs a little extra help to recover than don't be afraid to ask for it.