Dr. Kevin Yip

Dr Kevin Yip
Orthopaedic Surgeon
MBBS(UK), FRCS(EDIN), FAM(SING), FHKCOS(ORTHO)

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Backache During Pregnancy

Backache is a very common feature of pregnancy with about half of all pregnant women experiencing back pain.

Factors contributing to backache:

  1. Posture – As the pregnancy progresses, the centre of gravity changes and the increasing weight gain causes changes in the normal curve of the spine. These changes put a lot of stress and strain on the muscles and ligaments of the lower back; causing discomfort and pain.

  2. Fatigue – a typical symptom of pregnancy and tiredness can lead to poor posture.

  3. Ligament laxity – during pregnancy the body releases hormones preparing for childbirth by loosening up the ligaments, particularly those which connect the bones of the pelvis and the lower back. This laxity allows movement to occur at joints when normally there would be very little movement. The increase in movement may give rise to pain.

  4. The expanding uterus – will start to weaken the abdominal muscles and alter the posture, putting a strain on the back. In late pregnancy, many women feel a sharp pain up and down their back, legs, and buttocks. This is caused by the baby’s head pressing on pelvic bones that in turn press on the sciatic nerves. The legs may feel weak and numb. If there is history of injury to the tailbone, sitting may cause severe pain when pregnancy progresses.

Prevention of backache in pregnancy:
  1. Maintain good posture and avoid gaining too much weight. Wear flat, comfortable shoes. As your belly grows and your balance shifts, a pair of high heels will only throw your posture even more out of position.

  2. Standing – stand up straight with weight evenly on both feet. Keep the ‘tummy and pelvis tucked in and the shoulders back. Keep one foot on a stool when you need to stand for long period as it helps to relief lower back strain.

  3. Sitting – sit well back into the chair so that the lower back is fully supported and keep the feet slightly raised off the floor on a footstool. It may be necessary to place a small rolled towel at the normal curve of the back. Do not cross the legs. Very soft low chairs should be avoided. Don’t sit for long periods; get up and walk for a break at least every half hour.

  4. Lying – keep the knees bent, whether lying on the back or on the side tends to reduce back strain. When getting out of bed keep the knees bent, roll onto the side and push up into a sitting position using the arms, swinging the legs out over the side.

  5. Sleeping – get a good night’s rest by sleeping on the side with a pillow between the legs, or use an adjustable pregnancy wedge (an adjustable foam pillow that supports the back and abdomen).

  6. Bending, lifting & carrying
    Bending – bend down into a squat when reaching into low cupboards, making beds, gardening etc. Make sure you put one foot in front of the other to counteract the extra weight. Always bend your knees, keeping your back straight, and don’t stoop.
    Lifting – avoid heavy lifting. To lift correctly, stand close to the object, facing it, feet apart with one foot in front of the other. Always bend at the knees and not at the waist. Squat down keeping the back straight. As you lift, bring the object in as close to you as you can. Never twist your body as you lift.
    Carrying – if you have to carry heavy bags, distribute the weight evenly on each side of you. If carrying babies or small children, change from one hip to the other frequently.

  7. Support – A back support belt (a wide velcro-adjustable truss) can relieve sciatic pain by lifting the abdomen, minimizing the weight your belly is putting on the pelvis and sciatic nerves.

To ease or relieve backache:
  1. Avoid maintaining the one position for any length of time. Vary between sitting and standing throughout the day.

  2. Simple exercises to strengthen and stretch muscles that support the back and legs. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the bed or floor. Draw in your tummy and press the small of your back down into the bed or floor. Hold this flattened position for a few seconds (make sure to breath normally, without holding your breath), then let go gently. Repeat ten times.

  3. Swimming is a great choice for pregnant women, because it strengthens your lower back muscles and the buoyancy of the water takes the strain off your joints and ligaments.

  4. Rest and a soak in warm water are often the best remedies for an aching back in normal situation. However; it is dangerous in pregnancy as immersing in water hotter than 102 degrees F can be dangerous for the baby. A hot or cold pack on the affected area can work the wonders too.

  5. A massage by a trained therapist can relax strained muscles.

Consult the orthopaedic specialist:
If your backache persists, it is important to consult with us to make sure that there is no damage to your disc or spine. If you are in excruciating pain, you need to put on bed rest and therapy. You can call us anytime at +65 9724 1219

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