Pregnancy and Lumbar Discomfort: Understanding Lower Back Pain in Expecting Mothers 

Lower back pain is a common complaint in pregnancy – in fact, it occurs in 60 to 70% of pregnancies. It’s defined as pain between the 12th rib and the gluteal folds/pubic symphysis and has been known to radiate to the posterolateral thigh, knee and calf. The pain is not caused by a diagnosable condition, like a herniated disc, and can occur at any point during pregnancy. While most cases are mild, some women can experience severe lumbar discomfort.

At Optimise Health, we believe that pregnancy is challenging enough without having to deal with lower back pain symptoms as well. We have multiple practitioners working under the same roof who collaborate with each other to ensure that you’re being provided with the very best support and treatment to manage your pain for the duration of your pregnancy. Don’t suffer alone – get in touch with our team today.


When is Lower Back Pain Likely to Start?   

Lower back pain can occur at any point during pregnancy.

Some women experience low back pain during early pregnancy, in the first trimester; others don’t experience any issues until their third trimester or even after giving birth; and some are fortunate to experience no pain at any stage.

The most common time to begin experiencing lumbar discomfort is during the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, and it tends to be worse in the evening. For most women, the pain will suddenly disappear within three months of it starting, however, a small percentage will experience persisting, chronic pain. 

What Makes Low Back Pain in Pregnancy More Likely? 

There are several risk factors that have been identified as making lumbar discomfort during pregnancy more likely. These include:

  • A history of lower back pain prior to pregnancy
  • Being a smoker
  • A history of lower back pain in previous pregnancies
  • Being overweight
  • Number of pregnancies
  • Increased physical workload
  • Lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle
  • A history of hypermobility

What Causes Low Back Pain in Pregnancy?   

A woman’s body undergoes some incredible changes during pregnancy as it changes and adapts to the growing baby. Some of these changes can lead to lumbar discomfort, and they fall under four categories:

1. Mechanical

As the uterus grows to accommodate the growing baby, it changes the load on the body and the body mechanics. A woman’s centre of gravity is shifted forwards, increasing the stress on her lower back. This can also result in postural changes, which can cause extra lordosis to occur (or an increase of the natural curvature of the spine), further increasing mechanical strain on her lower back.

The weight increase that comes with pregnancy can be another contributing factor. This places an increased amount of force across a woman’s joints, changes her centre of gravity, and forces an anterior pelvic tilt.

On top of this, as the abdominal muscles stretch to accommodate the growing uterus, they can become tired and weakened, losing their ability to maintain normal body posture. This can lead to the lower back supporting the majority of the increased weight.

2. Hormonal

During pregnancy, the body produces an increased amount of a hormone called relaxin. This loosens the ligaments in the pelvis, allowing the baby to pass through the birth canal. However, relaxin affects other ligaments throughout the body – including the lower back.

These increased relaxin levels can cause a woman to overstretch and strain muscles and ligaments far easier than before she was pregnant, so care must be taken to ensure the injury is avoided.

 3. Circulatory

The growing uterus may press on the vena cava, which is the large vein that carries blood to the heart, particularly at night when the woman is lying down. This can cause pain that is severe enough to wake the woman up and prevent her from sleeping comfortably. 

Pregnancy can also cause fluid retention, which results in increased fluid volume. This can lead to venous congestion and hypoxia in the pelvic and lumbar spine, which can also cause lower back pain.

4. Psychosocial

There are also a number of psychosocial factors that can increase lumbar discomfort during pregnancy. These include pain-related catastrophising, depression, as well as pain intensity and time. 

How to Relieve Low Back Pain During Pregnancy?   

There are many strategies and techniques that can be used to treat lumbar discomfort during pregnancy. Using a heat bag on the affected area can provide some short-term relief, especially after a long day of being on your feet.

A physiotherapist in Toowoomba or Warwick can also help you to find movements and positions that are more comfortable or even relieve your pain. Techniques like massage, mobilisation and taping can help to reduce pain in the short-term, whereas exercises that help to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the hips, pelvis and back can aid in the long-term. 

Physical Therapy Exercises for Low Back Pain During Pregnancy 

We are fortunate to have many trained physiotherapists at Optimise Health who can assist with lower back pain during pregnancy. You shouldn’t have to suffer alone, nor should you have to suffer until the baby is born. 

There are a number of techniques and treatments that can be used to manage your pain for the duration of your pregnancy, preparing your body for birth and aiding in a smooth recovery. Get in touch with us today. 



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