A pregnant woman arches, wincing, and places her hand on her lower back. It’s a familiar sight.
Women around the world know back pain is a normal part of pregnancy. What many women may not realize, however, is that relief is available.
“We’ve all heard about posture,” said Janet Hall, a physical therapist at the Holston Valley Outpatient Center. “But not all of us think about body mechanics, which can include everything from the way we brush our teeth to the way we sit in a car.”
Women who are pregnant, in particular, should pay close attention to body mechanics. Hall recommends pregnant women use lumbar support when sitting and sleep with a pillow between their ankles and knees. She also recommends exercise and provides pregnant patients with an exercise prescription designed especially for them.
“Pregnancy is a delicate time, and I don’t prescribe vigorous exercise,” she said. “We choose very simple exercises, and we go through them together to make sure they are being done properly.”
Most patients only need three to four sessions to experience relief from back pain.
“I want to empower women to be their own best therapist,” Hall said. “I want to teach them how to properly care for their bodies. The first step is for a woman to have her back evaluated, and then we can identify the cause of her pain.”
There are many reasons women experience back pain during pregnancy, Hall said. Hormonal changes in early pregnancy can lead to back pain, while the increased weight of a growing baby can strain the back in late pregnancy.
In some cases, back pain associated with pregnancy continues after the baby is born.
“For some women, the pain goes away,” Hall said. “For others, problems may continue 50 or 60 years post-partum. I had one patient who came to me for another problem, but I learned during her first visit that she had suffered back pain ever since she had her son 35 years earlier. This is a huge quality-of-life issue.
“I always tell women to listen to their bodies. Being pregnant is an enormous task, and having a baby is an Olympic event.”