How To Reduce Back Pain During Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant and are starting to suffer from back pain, then you should read what experts have to say. These tips will help you have a smooth and comfortable pregnancy.
Dr. Teena Thomas, MBBS, MRCOG, PGDFM, Sr. Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecology, Apollo Cradle, Brookefield, Bangalore.
While upper back pain may occur at any time during the pregnancy, it is most common during the third trimester. The reasons for upper back pain include the following: 
  • A woman gains about 25-30% of her body weight in a short period of time. This places stress on the back muscles, resulting in back pain. 

  • With the progress of a healthy pregnancy, the growing size of the baby causes a shift in the centre of gravity of the uterus, shifting it in the forward direction. In order to counter the same, the back muscles have to engage harder, thus putting stress on the muscles in the upper back, leading to upper back pain. 

  • The enlargement of the breast tissue in preparation for delivery increases the strain on the upper back. 

Some of the best practices that an expecting mother should follow in order to counter, reduce and ultimately eliminate upper back pain include the following:


Clothing matters. Wear comfortable clothing and a bra that provides good support. This can reduce the amount of stress on your back and help relieve the pain in the upper back muscles.  

Maintain a neutral sitting posture:  

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  • Make sure that you make use of a chair that has good lumbar pillow support.  

  • Ensure that the chair you are sitting on is of proper height so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor, with your hips angled at 90 degrees with respect to the floor.  

  • Do not cross your legs while sitting. 

  • Never keep your knees at a higher level than your hips when you sit during pregnancy. 

Avoid lifting heavy objects since lifting puts pressure on the back muscles. Your back muscles are already engaged in keeping your body posture straight as well as bearing the weight of expanding breast tissue during pregnancy.  

  • In case you do have to lift a heavy object, make sure that you face the object you are lifting. 

  • Keep the heavy object close to your body so that there is less stress on your arm and back muscles.  

  • Don’t bend from your back to lift, but from your knees when you kneel down to lift the object. 

  • Make sure that you do not twist while lifting the object. This could put undue stress on your upper back muscles.  

What Exercises Can I Do To Reduce Back Pain?

Performing certain stretches daily for an extended period of time is a good way to eliminate upper back pain. The following two exercises have been proven to be helpful in alleviating upper back pain for expecting mothers: 

Scapular Retraction: 

Stand in the door frame, keeping your arms relaxed at your side.  Gently pinch your shoulder blades together, as if you are trying to hold a pencil between the blades. Repeat this exercise 20 to 30 times a day, holding the position for 5 seconds each time.

Doorway Pectoralis Stretching:  

Stand in the door frame, placing your arms on both sides of the frame at shoulder level, with your elbows bent to 90 degrees. Place a foot forward and gently lunge forward, till the time you feel a light to moderate stretch on the front side of your shoulders. Repeat this exercise 3 to 5 times a day, holding this position for a period of 30 seconds each time. 

Perform a physical activity such as swimming or walking daily. This helps to make your back muscles strong, as well as alleviate discomfort in your back. Make sure, however, that you consult your medical practitioner before starting any new exercise during pregnancy. 

Will How I Sleep Help Back Pain?

Yes! The following sleeping positions during pregnancy help to reduce upper back pain 

  1. Make use of a prop: Use a firm pillow in order to support your upper back while sleeping. You may also place small pillows under your belly in a strategic manner, so as to reduce the amount of stress put on your back. Another option is to prop some pillows below your knees so as to provide more support. 

  2. Sleeping on the side: This is the best position to sleep in during pregnancy. It promotes smoother breathing, while also contributing to the alleviation of your upper back pain. 

  3. Go to bed only when you are sleeping instead of tossing and turning in bed: Simply lying on the bed without going to sleep only results in aggravating your back pain as you continually move from one position to another. Therefore, it is suggested that you only go to bed when you are sleepy. 

If you keep these points in mind, it will all help in alleviating your back pain and make your pregnancy journey more comfortable.

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