Eighty percent of women will experience back pain at some point during their pregnancies. The severity of this pain during pregnancy ranges from mild discomfort after standing for long periods of time to debilitating pain that interferes with daily life. Although back pain during pregnancy can be a sign of a more serious condition, including labor, in most cases, it is the result of changes happening within the body.

Factors that Influence Back Pain During Pregnancy

The spine is vulnerable due to the following factors during pregnancy:

  • Hormone production during pregnancy makes joints less stable (to allow the pelvis to spread as the baby grows)
  • Typical weight gain of 25-35 pounds during pregnancy, with the majority or extra weight distributed around the abdomen
  • Increase in postural strain as the body compensates for changes in the pregnant woman's center of gravity

Although it may seem enticing to rest when experiencing pain and not undertake an exercise routine, gentle stretching and movement will often decrease muscle spasm and restore improved spinal function, resulting in decreased pain. 1 Silva, A. Preventing and Managing Back Pain During Pregnancy. Expect Fitness. 2004. Exercise also boosts energy levels and contributes to an easier labor, delivery and post partum recovery. The components of a balanced exercise program during pregnancy include cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training.

Cardiovascular Exercise for Back Pain During Pregnancy

An activity that increases the body's heart rate for a sustained period of time is considered cardiovascular exercise. Walking, biking, and swimming are all considered safe for most pregnant women and can be performed for 20 to 45 minutes, 3 to 5 days a week. Pregnant women should take care to exercise at a mild to moderate level, but not to the point of exhaustion. Keep in mind that any exercise is better than none, so even a 10 minute walk at lunch time is beneficial.

  • 1 Silva, A. Preventing and Managing Back Pain During Pregnancy. Expect Fitness. 2004.

Alicia Silva is a physical therapist who specializes in treating women with back pain during pregnancy and post-partum. She is the author of the book Preventing and Managing Back Pain During Pregnancy and has developed educational resources and led workshops on health, wellness, and fitness.