Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment, and Outlook (2024)

Lower back pain is common during pregnancy. Changing hormones, extra weight, and a shifting center of gravity can all contribute. Stretching, wearing a support belt, or using hot packs may help.

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Pregnancy can include many joyous moments, like hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or seeing them on an ultrasound screen. A fair amount of aches and pains can also be involved.

Experts estimate that 50% of people experience lower back pain during their pregnancy or postpartum.

Many individuals experience lower back pain starting in the second trimester.

This lower back pain isn’t usually a major source of concern during pregnancy, but it’s important to notify your doctor or healthcare professional if you believe that you’re going into early labor or if it becomes severe.

Read on for more information about lower back pain in pregnancy and what you can do to feel better.

If you’re experiencing lower back pain during pregnancy, you may try things like:

  • applying hot and cold packs to your lower back
  • wearing a supportive pregnancy belt
  • stretching frequently
  • sleeping on your left side while using supportive pillows
  • talking with a chiropractor or acupuncturist

In some cases, back pain may be due to an infection. If you’re experiencing signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI), like a fever or bloody discharge, it’s important to let your doctor know so they can provide the appropriate medications.

Lower back pain during pregnancy is usually associated with:

  • hormone changes
  • a shifted center of gravity
  • extra weight

During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch and weaken, which can change your posture and put a strain on your back. Pregnancy hormones also relax the ligaments in the joints of the pelvis and may lead to lower back pain.

Lower back pain during pregnancy is extremely common and may not require any further diagnosis.

If your doctor is concerned about your lower back pain or thinks it might not be pregnancy-related, they may consider diagnostic imaging.

Ultrasound and MRI testing are typically safe during pregnancy, but doctors only recommend them if they believe they could answer a medical question or provide a health benefit.

While you may not be able to fully prevent lower back pain during pregnancy, some things you can do to minimize it and increase your comfort include:

  • rucking a small pillow behind your lower back when sitting in a chair
  • avoiding lifting heavy objects
  • choosing shoes with good arch support that aren’t heels
  • balancing weight by carrying shopping bags and other items in both hands
  • focusing on good posture
  • exercising regularly

Standing for a long period of time increased lower back pain for 27.2% of pregnant women in one study. However, over 40% of pregnant women in the study were able to reduce back pain by resting.

While resting throughout the day can help lower back pain, nearly two-thirds of the pregnant women reported that back pain worsened during the night.

Many individuals experience relief in lower back pain shortly after they deliver the baby or within a few months of being postpartum.

Language matters

You’ll notice we use the binary term “women” in this article. While we realize this term may not match your gender experience, this is the term used by the researchers whose data was cited. We try to be as specific as possible when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data for or may not have had participants who are transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

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When should I worry about lower back pain in pregnancy?

If back pain is accompanied by a fever, pain during urination, or vagin*l bleeding, it’s important to let your doctor know since these can be signs of a UTI. It’s also important to let your doctor know if back pain feels like contractions and is accompanied by other signs of preterm labor.

Can you use a heating pad on your back while pregnant?

Yes, you can use a heating pad on your back while pregnant to help relieve some aches and pains, but avoid placing the heating pad on your abdomen.

Why does my lower back hurt when I’m pregnant and trying to sleep?

Lower back pain may get worse at night because the expanding uterus can put pressure on the vena cava. It may help to sleep on your left side with one or both knees bent. You can place pillows between the knees and below the belly for comfort, too.

Lower back pain is a common pregnancy symptom. It’s typically due to hormonal changes, additional weight, and a changing center of gravity. Stretching, wearing a support belt, and using a heating pad can all help relieve your pain.

Although lower back pain is usually a typical pregnancy symptom, it’s important to let your doctor or midwife know if you believe the pain you’re experiencing is contractions or if you’re showing other signs of labor.

Let your doctor know if your pain is severe.

Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment, and Outlook (2024)

FAQs

Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment, and Outlook? ›

Takeaway. Lower back pain is a common pregnancy symptom. It's typically due to hormonal changes, additional weight, and a changing center of gravity. Stretching, wearing a support belt, and using a heating pad can all help relieve your pain.

What is the effective treatment of low back pain in pregnancy? ›

Pelvic tilts are particularly effective in relieving lumbar pain. Knee pull, straight leg raising, curl up, lateral straight leg raising, and the Kegel exercises are also successful in relieving low back pain in pregnant women.

What are the causes and treatment of lower back pain? ›

It can result from a strain (injury) to muscles or tendons in the back. Other causes include arthritis, structural problems and disk injuries. Pain often gets better with rest, physical therapy and medication. Reduce your risk of low back pain by keeping at a healthy weight and staying active.

What is the common cause of back pain during pregnancy? ›

It is very common to get backache or back pain during pregnancy, especially in the early stages. During pregnancy, the ligaments in your body naturally become softer and stretch to prepare you for labour. This can put a strain on the joints of your lower back and pelvis, which can cause back pain.

What are the red flags for back pain during pregnancy? ›

Among the most worrisome causes of pregnancy back pain is preterm labor. Women should watch for pain that is new and cyclical — which could be a sign of uterine contractions — along with vagin*l bleeding or any change in vagin*l discharge that could indicate a placental issue or an early rupture of your waters.

How can I recover from back pain during pregnancy? ›

Ask your doctor about recommended stretching exercises and if any low-impact exercises are OK for you — safe regular exercise can help with back pain. Get a gentle pregnancy massage if your doctor says it's OK. Don't take any medicines without checking with your doctor first.

What is the best relief for low back pain? ›

What are the most effective home remedies for lower back pain?
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain medications often help relieve discomfort while you recover from a minor injury or strain. ...
  • Hot and cold therapy. ...
  • Gentle exercise.

How to relieve lower back and pelvic pain? ›

Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470299/ :
  1. Medication. Treatment is usually started with pain-relieving medications, such as NSAIDs to reduce the pain. ...
  2. Ice therapy. ...
  3. Physical therapy. ...
  4. Manual manipulation. ...
  5. Posture correction.

Can I use a heating pad on my back while pregnant? ›

Heating pads can be used while pregnant to ease pain in the muscles or joints. However, it is important they do not raise the individual's body temperature too much.

Is pregnancy back pain biological? ›

In addition, a biomechanical process suggests that the abdominal muscles of the pregnant woman stretch to accommodate the enlarging uterus, causing muscle fatigue and resulting to an extra load on the spine, which is charged with the task of supporting the majority of the increased weight of the torso3, 8.

When should I go to the hospital for back pain during pregnancy? ›

If you have severe back pain, or if the pain goes on for more than two weeks, call your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other obstetric care provider. He or she will want to rule out other causes of the pain. What health conditions can cause back pain? Back pain can be a sign of some pregnancy complications.

What medication is used for back pain in pregnancy? ›

Medication: If your back pain is severe or persistent, your doctor may recommend you take medication to treat inflammation and relieve your symptoms. Acetaminophen is safe for most women to take during pregnancy; however, aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications usually are not recommended.

When should I be worried about lower back pain? ›

In many cases lower back pain stops on its own. But if it doesn't, here are some guidelines on when you may want to start seeking professional help: If the pain lasts four weeks or longer. If the pain keeps getting worse as time goes by.

What is the best pain reliever for back pain while pregnant? ›

Most pregnant women can take acetaminophen if their doctor gives them the thumbs-up. It's the most common pain reliever that doctors allow pregnant women to take.

Is ice or heat better for lower back pain pregnancy? ›

Use heat not cold.

Heating pads are a safe way to help your back muscles loosen up and allow you to relax. Ice packs are not as effective as heat, as they can make muscles feel even more tense. Massage can also be helpful—especially when done by a professional therapist who is well versed in massaging pregnant bodies.

Is it okay to use a heating pad on my back while pregnant? ›

It's fine to use a heating pad to find relief from pregnancy-related aches and pains in your back, hips, and joints. But avoid using it for longer than 20 minutes. Start with the lowest setting, and make sure you don't fall asleep with it. You can also try a microwaveable heat pack or a hot water bottle.

How to relieve sacrum pain during pregnancy? ›

How to Manage Sacroiliac Joint and Low Back Pain
  1. Avoid activities that aggravate your pain.
  2. Stick with comfy shoes. High heels tilt your body forward, further straining your low back muscles. ...
  3. Maintain a healthy pregnancy weight. ...
  4. Try a belly band. ...
  5. Rethink your sleep. ...
  6. Stay active.

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