Pregnancy and back pain

The Canadian Chiropractic Association reports that at least 50 percent of pregnant women experience back pain. Further, 10 percent of those report discomfort severe enough to disrupt their daily routines.  

What causes pregnancy-related back pain in the first place? The average healthy weight gain during pregnancy is more than 30 pounds. This extra weight places considerable stress on the back, feet, ankles and knees. As the baby grows, the core abdominal muscles become stretched, and cannot stabilize posture as well as they did before. 

In the third trimester, levels of a hormone called “relaxin” increase 10 times. This also contributes to back pain. Relaxin loosens the joints to allow the pelvis to accommodate the enlarging uterus. These loose joints force the muscles of the back and pelvis to work overtime to keep you upright and balanced. 

The Canadian Chiropractic Association offers the tips to help minimize back pain during pregnancy: 

Exercise can help increase muscle support for your aching back. Low impact cardiovascular activities, such as swimming, walking, or stationary cycling can help relieve pain and maintain fitness. 

Pregnant women should sleep on the left side to reduce the pressure of the uterus on the large blood vessels in the abdomen, and optimize blood flow to both mother and baby. 

Place a pillow between the knees to take pressure off the lower back when sleeping on your side. Place the pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back. 

Take frequent, short breaks with your feet elevated. 

Remember, adequate rest restores your energy and gives your back a chance to relax. 

Wear flat, supportive shoes and use a lumbar support pillow in your chair at home or work. If you sit at a computer or desk, take frequent breaks and walk around for a few minutes each hour. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially when lifting heavy objects, including other toddlers and children. 

Drug Interactions 

NSAID medication (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen should be avoided during pregnancy. For pain relief of back pain, pregnant women have routinely been recommended to take Paracetamol (aka acetaminophen or Tylenol).  

Until recently, there has not been any clear evidence that Paracetamol has any harmful effects on the unborn baby. Unfortunately, there is new evidence that Paracetamol may have effects on the baby later in life. Paracetamol use during pregnancy is thought to be a potential cause for the worldwide rise in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a neurobehavioral condition.  

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found women who took Paracetamol while pregnant had a 37 percent higher risk of having a child who would later be diagnosed with ADHD. 

Drug-free treatment 

Numerous studies show that back pain can be reduced by manual therapies during pregnancy. In a study of 170 Canadian women, those who received chiropractic care reported less pain both during pregnancy and during labor. A chiropractor can provide safe, effective, and drug-free care to relieve pain affecting the joints, muscles and nerves of the spine and pelvis. 

If you are pregnant and suffering from neck or back pain, you need to look at chiropractic. Chiropractic care can make the difference between living in pain or masking the discomfort with medication.  

Dr. Jemal Khan is a chiropractor based in the Cayman Islands. 

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Many women experience backache while pregnant.
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