The aches and discomforts of pregnancy aren’t designed to make you miserable, though that’s often the upshot. They’re the side effects of the preparations your body is making for that momentous moment when your baby is born. Backache is no exception. During pregnancy, the usually stable joints of the pelvis begin to loosen up to allow easier passage for the baby at delivery. This, along with your oversize abdomen, throws your body off balance. To compensate, you tend to bring your shoulders back and arch your neck. Standing with your belly thrust forward—to be sure that no one who passes fails to notice you’re pregnant—compounds the problem. The result: a deeply curved lower back, strained back muscles, and pain.
Even pain with a purpose hurts. But without defeating the purpose, you can conquer (or at least subdue) the pain. The following should help:
1. Sit smart. Sitting puts more stress on your spine than almost any other activity, so it pays to do it right. At homeand at work, make sure the chairs you use most provide good support, preferably with a straight back, arms, and a firm cushion. A chair back that reclines slightly can also help take the pressure off. Use a footrest to elevate your feet slightly, don’t cross your legs, which can cause your pelvis to tilt forward, exacerbating those strained back muscles.
2. Sitting for long period ca be as bad for your back as sitting the wrong way. Try not to sit for more than an hour without taking a walking and stretching break; setting a half-hour limit would be even better.
3. Try not to stand too long, either. If you work on your feet, keep one foot on a low stool to take some pressure off your lower back. When you’re standing on a hard-surfaced floor—in the kitchen while cooking or washing dishes, for example—put a small skid-proof rug underfoot to ease the pressure.
4. Avoid lifting heavy loads, but if you must, do it slowly. Stabilize yourself by assuming a wide stance, bend at the knees, not at the waist; and lift with your arms and legs, not your back. If you have to carry a heavy load of groceries, divide them between two shopping bags and carry one in each arm rather than carrying it all in front of you.
6. Wear the right shoes. Extremely high heels are a pain for your back—as are very flat ones. Express recommend a chunky 2-inch heel to keep your body in proper alignment. You might also consider orthotics, orthopedic shoe inserts designed for muscle support.
7. A comfortable sleeping position aided by a body pillow (one that’s at least 5 feet long) will help minimize aches and pains when you’re awake. When getting out of bed in the morning, swing your legs over the side of the bed to the floor rather than twisting to get up.
8. Consider a crisscross support sling designed specifically for a pregnant figure, which will help take the burden of your belly’s weight off your lower back.
9. No reaching for the stars—or the crackers on the top shelf. Use a low, stable step stool to get items from high places and you’ll avoid additional strain.
10. Alternate cold and heat to temporarily relieve sore back muscles. Use an ice pack for 15 minutes, followed by a heating pad for 15 minutes. Wrap both cold pack and heating pad in a towel or cloth.
11. Take a warm (but not hot) bath. Or turn the shower head to pulsating and enjoy the back massage.
12. Rub your back the right way. Treat yourself to a therapeutic massage (with a massage therapist who knows you’re pregnant and is trained in the art of prenatal massage).
14. Do some simple exercises that strengthen your abdominal muscles, such as Dromedary drops and the pelvic tilt. Or sit on an exercise ball and rock back and forth (or lie back on it to ease back—and hip—discomfort). Join a pregnancy yoga or water gymnastics class, or consider water therapy if you can find a medically (and pregnancy) savvy water therapist.
15. If pain is significant, ask your practitioner about physical therapists or alternative medicine specialists (such as acupuncturists or those who specialize in biofeedback), who might be able to help.