Title: The Aches and Pains of Pregnancy and Back Pain Word Count: 727 Summary: It is an unfortunate but inevitable fact that a majority of pregnant women will experience back pain at some point in their pregnancy. Keywords: back pain, back pain pregnancy Article Body: It is an unfortunate but inevitable fact that a majority of pregnant women will experience back pain at some point in their pregnancy. There are many remedies that can relieve the aches and discomfort of pregnancy, while preventing it from becoming a long-lasting predicament. Women with pre-existing back pain prior to pregnancy have an easier time adjusting to the discomfort as the pregnancy develops. Proper medical advice and treatment can prevent back pain from becoming a complication when labor occurs. Causes of Pregnancy Back Pain Two categories of back pain during pregnancy are caused by: 1.) Strained ligaments, muscles, discs and joints – caused by poor posture, incorrect lifting methods, weak or taut muscles, or injury, this type of back pain can occur with people even before pregnancy. Symptoms worsen at the end of the day or after standing for long periods of time, due to muscle fatigue and stretched ligaments from the combined weight of both the body and the baby. A minority of pregnant women may experience symptoms of sciatica during the course of their pregnancy. This stems from inflammation or back pressure which causes pain in the sciatic nerve. Other symptoms include tingling, weakness, backaches, and pain traveling down one leg. There is a common misconception that it is the baby’s weight that puts pressure on a nerve, however sciatica is a disorder which may occur whether the pregnancy exists or not. 2.) Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) – this back pain is pregnancy-related and may need to be treated differently from standard back pain. A majority of pregnant women who experience back pain during pregnancy suffer from this ailment. Pain symptoms located around the area of the pubic bone may signal the onset of Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD). It is advised to consult a qualified physiotherapist well-versed in the area of women’s health to make a correct diagnosis for these conditions. Preventing Back Pain By making sure the body is fit and healthy before getting pregnant can help prevent back pain. Even if pregnancy has already occurred, keeping fit is still possible through exercise specially tailored for pregnant women (refer to antenatal fitness portion). These exercises can lower the risks of developing pregnancy-related back pain. Women unaccustomed to exercise are advised to take it slow. Keeping a moderate exercise regimen, having the correct posture, refraining from lifting heavy objects, and taking good care of the back can ensure the prevention of pregnancy-related back pain. If lifting is unavoidable, knees should be bent, the back kept straight, and the object held close to the body as possible. Ways to Alleviate Back Pain 1.) Taking care of the back (refer to “Protecting Your Back and Pelvis During Pregnancy” for more information). 2.) Massage – particularly when performed on the lower back, massage can result in considerable relief for tired and aching muscles. One relaxing method is to lean over the back of a chair or lie on one side while the muscles on both sides of the lower spine are massaged. Massage performed by a massage therapist, a midwife, or a physiotherapist may further relieve back pain. 3.) Heat and water – taking a warm and soothing bath, using a hot pack, or even a warm water shower can alleviate symptoms of back pain. 4.) Wearing a support belt – a maternity or support belt can help hold up the baby’s weight, easing the strain on the stomach and back muscles. 5.) Using a support pillow – sleeping on one side with a wedged-shaped pillow beneath the tummy can lessen back pain. 6.) Strength and stability exercises – exercises involving the pelvis and lower abdominals can strengthen back and stomach muscles to help support the baby’s weight. One example of a simple and safe abdominal exercise involves getting down on the floor on the hands and knees, making sure the back is in a level position. While breathing in and out, the belly button is pulled in towards the spine and the back held immobile for 5 to 10 seconds. The stomach muscles are then allowed to relax after each contraction. 7.) Having a good posture – this helps particularly if pain symptoms are centred on the tailbone, or coccyx. Slouching should be avoided, and the back should be arched whenever possible. It is advisable use a cushion or a cushioned ring to make sitting more comfortable. 8.) Aqua-natal classes – according to research, these water exercises can significantly decrease pregnancy-related back pain.