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[PATIENT ADVISER]

Pregnant With Back Pain? Suggested Comfort Tactics

Julie Colliton, MD

THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 24 - NO. 7 - JULY 96


Pregnancy, especially the later stages, is fertile ground for back pain. Your center of gravity shifts because your uterus expands. Your abdominal muscles lose tone. And hormonal changes temporarily loosen important support structures—ligaments and tendons—leaving you with joints and muscles in the back and pelvis that seem to groan under the stress of increased weight.

Up to 50% of pregnant women will experience back pain, which can last up to 6 months after delivery. There are three types of pregnancy-related back pain: low-back pain when you stand or sit, pain worst in the back of your pelvis and deep in your buttocks, and night pain in your lower back that occurs only when you are in bed.

Though back pain is largely unavoidable, your doctor can advise you about ways to minimize the discomfort. It will help to be more conscious of your posture: Try to keep your spine in a neutral position—neither swaybacked nor flat. Wearing flat or low-heeled and well supported shoes reduces the stress on your spine. If you must stand for long periods, take breaks or—if you can't do that—place one foot on a low stool, alternating your feet. If your job requires sitting, you can reduce the stress on your lower back by putting one foot on a low stool.

Many doctors prescribe strengthening and flexibility exercises to reduce back pain. Try the ones in figures 1 through 3 for starters. When done correctly, they're easy to perform at home and should not be painful; don't do the exercises if they cause pain. If exercise and preventive measures aren't effective, your doctor may advise other options such as icing or heating the area or wearing a support device.

[FIGURE 1] [FIGURE 2] [FIGURE 3]

Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Before starting an exercise program, consult a physician.

Dr Colliton is a physiatrist with Denver Spine & Rehabilitation in Denver. She is a member of the Women's Sports Medicine Commettee of the American College of Sports Medicine and a team physician for the US Disabled Ski Team.


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