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Upper Back Pain During Pregnancy

Back pain is a given when a woman becomes pregnant. A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health revealed that there's a 42% prevalence of upper back pain during pregnancy and postpartum. It comes with the pregnancy package since you're gaining weight, there's a change in your center of gravity, and the ligaments in the joints of your pelvis are becoming relaxed because of the hormones.

So what are the specific reasons behind upper back pregnancy and what can be done about it? The dramatic changes in your body cause back pain, something that you should expect to happen. But it doesn't mean you have no choice but to suffer from the pain. There are many ways to ease the discomfort of upper back pain, as well as your shoulder pain and neck pain, during pregnancy.

Reasons for Upper Back Pain During Pregnancy

It's only natural to experience upper back pain as your body changes to accommodate the birthing of a child. Here are the common reasons for this particular discomfort:

1. Change in Balance and Center of Gravity

As your uterus expands throughout the pregnancy, you are forced to stretch the muscles of your neck and pull your shoulders for prolonged periods in order to maintain your balance. The effort causes strain on your spine which results in upper back pain. As your pregnancy progresses, your body's center of gravity shifts as well, gearing towards the front. Since your back muscles are not used to this shift, it reacts through upper body pain.

2. Hormonal Changes

During your pregnancy, you secrete a hormone called relaxin, which helps relax your pelvic joints and ligaments to prepare for childbirth. This results to strain on the muscles and spinal column, which leads to back pain.

3. Size of the Uterus

Your uterus keeps growing throughout your pregnancy which puts pressure on the rest of your body, particularly the nerve endings and the blood vessels surrounding the spine. You will feel this more when you lay on your back in the third trimester.

4. Incorrect Posture

A pregnant woman will gain around 10 to 15 kilograms over the course of her pregnancy. All that weight puts unnecessary stress on the back and the spine. Standing upright for a long time will become a challenge because of the upper back pain. Wearing high heels during this time will make the problem worse.

Remedies to Relieve Upper Back Pain While Pregnant

Positive pregnant woman doing morning exercise at home

Fortunately, there are lots of pain relief measures you can do to give pregnancy back pain the boot. These are the remedies to alleviate upper back pain during pregnancy.

1. Mind Your Footwear

This is really not the type to slip on those stilettos. Heels will place undue stress on your spinal cord and will directly contribute to upper back pain. Wear flats as much as possible and choose ones that have an excellent fit, are made of natural materials, and have great soles.

2. Maintain Correct Posture

Yes, it's really hard to keep upright when your abdomen is pushing your posture forward. But you must keep your shoulders pulled back and your spine straight especially when walking in order to reduce the load placed on your spinal column. Shift your position as often as you can to avoid putting too much stress in one particular area. 

You should also learn to bend your body correctly now that you're carrying a lot of additional weight. Bend your knees first before you lean down and lift your body with your knees instead of your back.

3. Sleep in the Right Position

Sleeping on your back is not easy with all that weight piled on top of you so you have to resort to sleep on your right side. You can use those pillows specially made for pregnant women in order to make your sleep quality even better.

4. Do Exercises

Because you're carrying all that extra weight, exercising may be the last thing you want to do. But moving your body is essential in order to avoid gaining more weight than necessary. For most women, 14 pounds of pregnancy weight is enough. Try not to pass this threshold of weight gain. Walking and swimming are great exercises for pregnant women. Make sure to get your doctor's approval first before doing anything strenuous.

Tips to Relieve Upper Back Pain During Pregnancy

Your doctor may recommend these approaches to ease your upper back pain:

  • Prenatal yoga - this can help improve your posture and tone your body in preparation for childbirth. It can also help keep emotional stress at bay with its deep, mindful breathing exercises.
  • Prenatal massage - a physical therapist may be needed if you're dealing with acute back pain, which happens when muscular clenching irritates the sciatic nerve. Swedish massage is the most recommended for pregnant women because it has long, smooth strokes that relax tight muscles without aggravating your joints or push fluid through your body incorrectly.
  • Swimming - swimming takes the pressure off your spine, making it an excellent exercise for pregnant women. You only need to paddle up and down the pool lanes to decompress your spine and tone your arms, back, legs, and core muscles.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Upper back pain is a normal part of pregnancy, but you should know when something is not right. Contact your doctor if the following happens:

  • You are showing symptoms that look like you're going into labor
  • Your back pain comes with leaking fluid and vaginal bleeding
  • You get a burning sensation when you urinate and you're also urinating frequently. This could be a sign of urinary tract infection.
  • Your back pain is severe and shows no sign of letting up even after two weeks of trying remedies
  • You have a tingling sensation and losing feeling in your extremities. This could be a sign of spinal nerve problems.

You Don't Have to Suffer From Upper Back Pain

Let New York Pain Care help you with your pregnancy-related back pain. Our pain management services include physical therapy, medical massage, podiatry, and acupuncture - all delivered by our team of expert and board-certified spine and pain specialists. 

We have a non-surgical approach to relieving your back pain and promoting recovery and healing. Our doctors have performed more than 15,000 procedures combined with over 15 years of experience. Call us now and find out how you can have a pain-free pregnancy.

Learn more: 9 Stretches for Upper Back Pain Relief

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