Pregnancy, lower back pain and Sciatica.
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Pregnancy: the link between pain and the changes

After our last blog post announcing Keri’s pregnancy I have had several patients asking how pregnancy causes lower back pain. As a result I thought I would write a post explaining why back pain can occur.

For many women, as their pregnancy unfolds they may notice new symptoms in the lower back, like a niggling sensation, pain on performing certain movements like rolling over in bed and stiffness when standing straight.

There are plenty of reasons for this, including but not limited to; Relaxin release, disc issues and increased muscular tension. We’re going to focus on the latter, caused by the shift of the centre of gravity. The muscles of the spinal column are there to keep you upright and they are very good at it. As the foetus grows, your centre of gravity shifts forward and the lower back muscles compensate for this by contracting more to bring you upright. A similar mechanism happens when you wear high heels, the pelvis is pushed forward so the body compensates by arching your back.

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This image may be about wearing high heels but the effect is the same. The pelvis tips forward and the lumbar curve is increased, placing pressure on the nerves in the lower back.

Sometimes, depending on your height, activity levels and occupation, the muscles can contract too much, causing a dull ache on one or both sides of the lower back. If you experience sharp pain, it may be because the tight muscles have brought the vertebrae too close together and they have compressed a nerve. This can cause pain in the local area as well as the areas that the nerve supplies. A good example of this is Sciatica, whereby the Sciatic nerve is compressed which causes pain down into the back of the legs, sometimes as far as the toes.

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Image courtesy of Physiopedia.

What can you do about it?

There are several options for self-care, including massage, stretches (within reason) and seeing an osteopath.

Self massage can be as simple as sitting on a squash ball, not with your full weight if painful, and placing pressure on tender points in the gluteal muscles. If your partner is happy to do so, they can also work through the muscles. I write this after having just worked on Keri’s glutes as she was having sharp pain in her lower back when rolling over in bed. After establishing that the gluteal muscles were the problem, I placed firm pressure with the heels of my hands until it became uncomfortable and held until the discomfort faded. Post massage there was still a slight niggle, but the act of rolling over was so much easier for her.

Stretches like the knee hug and gluteal stretches can be very useful for stretching the tight muscles, especially coupled with massage work. However, the suitability of these stretches depend upon your stage of pregnancy so speak with a manual therapist (osteopath, physiotherapist etc) to discuss them.

Osteopathic treatment utilises massage, stretches and articulations to release tight muscles that may be placing pressure on the nerves in the lower back. To enquire about how it might help you please call 0118 380 0385.

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