Many people focus on pre-natal lower back pain. However, there are also a fair number of women who experience upper back pain (thoracic spine). A woman has to face some discomfort during pregnancy. Experiencing back pains is one of the most common discomforts that women experience during this time. At times, back pains can be rather annoying. In the early stages of pregnancy, experiencing lower back pains is common. However, women can experience upper back pain during the late stage of pregnancy when the uterus attains a significant weight and reaches the maximum size. This pain is mostly experienced during the third trimester of the pregnancy. The third trimester of a pregnancy is characterized by tremendous changes that take place to prepare the body for childbirth.
What Causes Upper Back Pain During Pregnancy?
There are a number of reasons why women experience upper back pain during pregnancy. The level of pregnancy hormones rises once you are pregnant. These hormones cause the muscles and ligaments in your stomach and back area to loosen and relax. The reason why your muscles relax and loosen is that they can make room for the baby that is growing. More pressure is put on your ribs as the weight of the uterus and the baby increases. A woman also gains about 25% more weight when she is pregnant. All this extra pressure and weight may cause weakening of muscles, which results in upper back pain.
Another reason why pregnant women experience upper back pain is because the center of gravity is shifted by the baby that is growing inside you, and extra weight can cause your body to lean forward. This causes your back muscles to work harder to maintain the balance of your body. Breasts becoming bigger may be another cause of upper back pain during pregnancy. Due to the added weight and the bigger size of your breasts, your shoulders may be pulled down.
How to Relieve Upper Back Pain During Pregnancy
|Maintain good body postures||This is a very important step in the prevention of back pain during pregnancy. A pregnant woman should always sit and stand in upright position, and try as much as possible to keep the back straight. Pregnant women should, however, not sit or stand in one position for too long. It is very important to change positions at regular intervals, as it helps to relieve back pain.|
|Keep your feet elevated||Keeping your feet slightly elevated when sitting will help relieve upper back pain. Avoid keeping your feet crossed.|
|Sleep on the side||Other than standing and sitting with care, pregnant women should also maintain an appropriate sleeping position. Sleeping on the side, with one knee or both knees bent slightly can help relieve pressure on back muscles, thus relieving upper back pain.|
|Take a pregnancy support pillow||Take a pregnancy support pillow – placing one pillow under your abdomen and another one between the knees while sleeping can help to relieve upper back pain during pregnancy. This is because by doing so, you are maintaining an unbiased spinal position.|
|Cold or warm compresses||A warm or cold compress can be used to help relieve back pain temporarily. You can alternate cold and warm compresses to temporarily relieve the pain.|
|Medication||Medications can also be used to relieve upper back pain. Medications should, however, only be used under supervision of a health care provider or a physician.|
|Wear a good supportive bra||Pregnant women should not only wear good supportive bras, but wear loose clothing that is comfortable during this period.|
Important notes: Contact your doctor if necessary
If the above attempts do not help relieve your upper back pain, it is advised that you contact your doctor. Upper back pain during pregnancy is very common. However, it is not to be ignored. Upper back pain in some cases may be a case of pre-term labor, or other obstetrical conditions. Always mention the back pain to your doctor so that they can evaluate what is causing it and suggest a proper treatment. Treating upper back pain improves the quality of pregnancy, which in turn makes your post-partum transition and recovery easier.
How to Prevent Upper Back Pain During Pregnancy
1. Avoid Lifting Heavy Objects. You should avoid carrying and lifting heavy objects. Use proper body mechanics when lifting heavy objects if necessary. If you have to lift heavy objects, face the object that you are about to lift, and keep it as close to your body as possible. This is to help decrease the force that is placed on your back. Other than bending from your back when lifting an object, bend from your knees. Avoid twisting while lifting the object. Wait until you have lifted the object and have it close to your body before turning or pivoting.
2. Perform Daily Activities. Exercises such as swimming or walking will help in keeping your back muscles strong. Such simple exercises can also help in relieving discomfort that is caused by upper back pain.
3. Take a Few Stretching Exercises. Performing simple stretching exercises may help prevent upper back pain. Below are two examples that can help to reduce some postural stresses, thus lessening upper back pain:
- Doorway pectoralis. Place your arms on the door frame while standing at a door. Place your hands at shoulder height with your elbows bent to 90 degrees. With one foot placed forward, leap forward gently until you feel a moderate stretch at the front of your chest, to the front of your shoulders and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 to 4 times, at different times of the day.
- Scapular retraction. After performing the door way pectoralis, keep your arms relaxed at the side, and then gently pinch the shoulder blades together as if trying to hold a pencil between them. Hold for about 5 seconds and relax. Repeat this exercise 20 to 30 times per session, and hold several sessions in a day.