December 1, 2023 9:54 AM

How Is Spine Health Related To Pregnancy? See What Experts Say

A range of natural biological changes take place in a woman’s body during pregnancy, which directly affects the musculoskeletal system and may become a potential cause of back pain and related issues, such as leg pain. Pregnancy-related changes typically involve the joints and connective tissues, making them loose, pliable, and soft. These changes result in increased stress and strain on the spinal and pelvic joints in the lower back and hips. 

Speaking about this, Dr Madhukar Shinde, who is a Gynaecologist, at Apollo Clinic, Nigdi, Pune said, “It may originate in the mid and/or lower back area and typically includes the pelvis and hips and the pain can vary from intermittently minor discomfort, to chronic and debilitating. The lumbar spine (lower back) and sacroiliac joints are most commonly affected due to changes in posture, joint stability, body weight, and shape. While in most cases back pain is self-limiting, resolves after delivery, and does not cause lasting issues, some women may continue to be affected by pain in the lumbar and/or pelvic region for several months or years.”

Back pain affects over 50% of pregnant women. While it can occur at any time during pregnancy, back pain is usually most troublesome during the second and third trimesters.

Dr Madhukar said that pregnancy-related symptoms and signs affecting the lower back typically result in reduced overall function and include (but are not limited to). 

  • Pain of varying intensity that starts or flares during movement or activity, such as while sitting, standing, walking, lifting objects, sexual intercourse, bending, and/or twisting the spin
  • Sleep disturbances due to pain while turning in bed, lack of sleep, and reduced sleep hours 
  • Reduced range of motion in the lower back (lumbar spine)
  • Changes in balance and walking patterns, especially in the second and third trimesters

These changes mostly occur due to the shift in the centre of gravity towards the abdomen. This shift increases the curve of the lower spine and causes a slight backward tilt of the sacrum (part of the spine that connects the lower back to the hip). 

While pregnant women who lead a sedentary lifestyle may be at a higher risk of developing back pain, engaging in heavy physical labour or being active throughout the day may also lead to back pain symptoms in pregnancy. Limited research indicates that women with increased body mass index (BMI) may be at a higher risk of developing back pain while pregnant.

Importance of Maintaining A Healthy Spine during Pregnancy:

Dr. Arvind Bhateja, who is a Lead Neuro & Spine Surgeon, at SPARSH Hospital, Bangalore said, “Maintaining a healthy spine during pregnancy is crucial for the well-being of both mother and baby. As the body undergoes numerous changes to accommodate the growing foetus, it places additional stress on the spine. This can lead to discomfort, pain, and even long-term issues if not managed properly. It’s essential to prioritize good posture, gentle exercises, and proper body mechanics during pregnancy. A strong and flexible spine not only promotes comfort but also ensures optimal nerve function, which is vital for the developing baby. Remember, a healthy spine supports a healthy pregnancy, making it an essential aspect of maternal care.”

5 Tips To Reduce Back Pain During Pregnancy:

Dr Bhavani Prasad Ganji who is a Consultant Neurosurgeon at Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad shared five helpful tips to reduce back pain during pregnancy.

1. Practice good posture:

Back discomfort can be reduced with good posture. Don’t lock your knees when you stand up straight, lift your chest, and keep your shoulders back and relaxed. Sitting carefully is another aspect of good posture. Select a chair that offers back support. Alternately, put a tiny pillow behind your lower back. For optimum support, as you stand, use a relaxed, wide stance. You might wish to rest one foot on a low stool if you stand for extended periods of time.

2. Choose the proper attire:

Put on low-heeled, supportive shoes—not flat ones. Don’t wear heels. You might think about putting on a maternity support belt. Despite the paucity of research on the subject, some women find maternity support belts to be beneficial.

3. Take a daily walk:

Include everyday physical activity in your routine with the approval of your healthcare team to maintain the strength of your back. Walking and other gentle activities are safe to do while pregnant. Back stretches are also advantageous. Your head should be in alignment with your back as you kneel down to rest. Pull in your stomach while gently rolling your back. Hold for a few seconds, then let your back and stomach relax while trying to maintain a flat back. Build up to 10 repetitions gradually.

4. Lift properly:

Squat down and use your legs to lift a tiny object. Avoid lifting with your back or bending at the waist. It’s critical to be aware of your limitations and request assistance if you need to lift something.

5. Sleep in a good position:

Instead of sleeping on your back, try to do so. Maintain a bent knee, or both. Additionally, you might want to place pregnancy or support pillows behind your back, beneath your stomach, and between your bent knees. Pain may be reduced by rubbing sore regions, using an ice pack or heating pad, or both.

6. Heat and cold:

It could be helpful to provide a hot and cold compress to the back. You can use an ice pack wrapped in a towel as a cold compress if your doctor gives the go-ahead. Apply this for 20 minutes every day, as often as your doctor instructs you to. You might be told to switch to a heating pad after three days, but never apply heat directly to your abdomen while you are pregnant.

When To Consult Your Doctor

Dr Bhavani Prasad Ganji said that one should talk to their medical team if their back pain is severe or if it lasts longer than two weeks. They might suggest over-the-counter drugs like paracetamol or alternative therapies like physical therapy or stretching exercises.

“A urinary tract infection or preterm labour can both be indicated by back pain during pregnancy. Contact your healthcare provider right away if you are experiencing back discomfort along with vaginal bleeding, a fever, or burning while urinating,” added Dr Bhavani.

[Disclaimer: The information provided in the article, including treatment suggestions shared by doctors, is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.]

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