pregnancy back pain

Pregnancy back pain is a common complaint. Researchers study which specific motions are related to low back pain during pregnancy.

Low back pain is a symptom experienced by many pregnant women, and it may have lasting effects in the weeks or even years following pregnancy. Some women report significant decreases in their mobility, and some even require wheelchairs and crutches for assistance. It is believed that pregnancy back pain increases as the pregnancy progresses and this may be attributed to the increase in weight and shift in the centre of gravity. Hormone-related looseness in ligaments also contributes to the pregnancy back pain experienced earlier in the pregnancy. Researchers in Japan recently published a study in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders to identify which activities, if any, were related to pregnancy back pain.

Assessing Pregnancy Back Pain in 275 Women

The study was longitudinal in nature so it followed 275 subjects and recorded data over the duration of their pregnancy. The study participants were recruited during a prenatal health check-up and were over 12 weeks pregnant at the time. Researchers excluded women who had previous orthopaedic or neurological disorders and women with high-risk pregnancies.

Researchers gave the women questionnaires at 12, 24, 30, and 36 weeks of pregnancy, which aligned with the regular prenatal check-up schedule. In addition to the questionnaire, the participants had their weight measured and recorded. Using a Numerical Rating Scale, the subjects were asked to grade the intensity of the worst pain experienced from the time of their last check-up until the present day. This scale ranges from zero to ten and represents pain from least (no pain) to greatest (worst possible pain), and any score greater than zero indicated the presence of low back pain in this study. In addition to experiencing pain and specifying its location, the researchers asked participants to indicate what motions, if any, produced the pain.

Regular Activities Induced Back Pain

The researchers found that pregnant women reported low back pain more with increasing gestational age. They also found that the intensity of pain increased as the pregnancy progressed. There were 16 kinds of motions related to the basic activities of daily life that participants believed induced pain. The three motions that most pregnant women felt were related to low back pain were sitting up, standing up from a seated position, and tossing and turning while laying flat. The results showed that standing up from a seated position and tossing and turning were both significantly related to low back pain throughout the entire pregnancy.

This study had some limitations. The researchers did not evaluate other factors that may be associated with low back pain during pregnancy such as physical flexibility, the level of hormones related to pregnancy, and muscular strength. Also, the mechanisms behind the low back pain were not explored in great detail.

Women Should be Advised on Proper Posture Techniques

In conclusion, low back pain during pregnancy needs to be addressed because it has the ability to affect the activities of daily living such as eating, dressing, hygiene, and mobility. Many pregnant women have difficulties completing activities related to their daily living because of low back pain. These results are useful especially in women prone to low back pain during pregnancy.

Women can be better advised on proper posture techniques that will reduce the risk of experiencing low back pain during the pregnancy, resulting in less discomfort. The factors that are related to low back pain during pregnancy should be identified and addressed in order to minimize the discomfort experienced, and recommendations about movements required for daily activities such as standing up from a seated position may be useful in the management of low back pain during pregnancy.

Written by Kimberly Spencer B.Sc. (Hons)

Reference: Morino, S., Ishihara, M., Umezaki, F., Hatanaka, H., Iijima, H., & Yamashita, M. et al. (2017). Low back pain and causative movements in pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders18(1).

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