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What Can I Do to Relieve My Pregnancy Backaches?

I'm 7 months' pregnant and my back is killing me! How can I get some relief?
- Fiona

Many pregnant women have achy backs as their bellies grow larger and their muscles and spine strain to carry the extra weight.

During pregnancy, the body also produces the hormone relaxin, which helps prepare the body for childbirth. One of the effects of relaxin is the loosening of ligaments throughout the body, making pregnant women less stable and more prone to injury, especially in their backs.

Here are some ways to help ease your back pain:

  • Try not to lift anything that weighs more than a few pounds. If you have to pick up something heavy (or a small someone), make sure to lift correctly. Don't bend down at the waist; instead, bend at your knees, squat down, and lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Don't sit or stand for long periods. If you can't get around it, use a box or stool to prop up one foot when standing or both feet when sitting. If you must stand for a long time, make sure to take frequent breaks.
  • Sit in ergonomic chairs with supportive backs or put a small pillow at the small of your back. And try to sit up straight.
  • Stand up straight. Resist the urge to push your belly far forward.
  • Apply a warm towel, warm water bottle, or heating pad on the lowest setting.
  • Wear an abdominal support garment or maternity pants with wide elastic bands that fit under the belly.
  • Don't wear high heels. Shoes with low heels and good arch support are the way to go.
  • Get a firm mattress or put a board between your mattress and box spring.
  • Sleep on your side, with at least one knee bent. Try using a pregnancy pillow to make sleeping more comfortable. Or put a pillow between your knees and another under your belly.
  • Ask your doctor about recommended stretching exercises and if any low-impact exercises are safe for you — regular exercise can help with back pain.
  • Get a gentle pregnancy massage if your doctor says it's OK.
  • Don't take any medications without checking with your doctor first.

Back pain also can be a sign of something else, like labor starting or a urinary tract infection. If you have any questions or concerns, severe pain, pain that isn't getting better, or additional symptoms, talk to your doctor.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: May 2012