Upper Back Pain During Pregnancy: 8 Causes & 7 Ways to Relieve

upper back pain during pregnancy

Upper back pain during pregnancy appears, in the majority of cases, approximately in the 20th week. Future mothers who have gained excess weight can experience it earlier, during initial pregnancy stages.

8 main causes of upper back pain during pregnancy

header 1 Difficulties keeping the balance

The growing belly makes the future mom stretch her neck and pull her shoulders back in order not to lose her balance. The result is upper back pain during pregnancy – a consequence of overstrained spine. If the pregnant woman is suffering from osteochondrosis, scoliosis, herniated discs, sciatica, muscle atrophy or the lack of physical activity, the situation becomes even worse.

header 2 The uterus increasing in size and mass

The growing uterus puts pressure on the nerve endings and blood vessels around the spine. It gets especially strong if the woman lies on her back in the third trimester.

header 3 The center of gravity has changed

The longer your pregnancy term is, the more your center of gravity shifts to the front. That induces upper back pain during pregnancy because your back muscles are not used to such loads.upper back pain during pregnancy - shifted center of gravity

header 4 Incorrect posture

Not only incorrect posture but also the need for standing upright for long periods of time can lead to upper back pain during pregnancy. Besides, the future mother gains 17-33 pounds of weight. This is a serious load on your legs and back. High-heeled shoes become another ordeal for your spinal column.

header 5 False contractions

Such contractions appear during the later stages of pregnancy (usually a few weeks before childbirth) and prepare your body for the delivery. When a contraction happens, your anterior abdominal wall becomes tense and stiff to touch. False contractions can be one of the causes of the upper back pain during pregnancy, sometimes reflected in the left or right side. Before childbirth, the pain can also become more intense because of the fetal head pressing on the lower parts of the spine.

Attention! If you feel false contractions and back pain, and at the same time there are unpleasant or painful contractions in your lower abdomen, vaginal discharge, and the term of pregnancy is less than 37 weeks, you need urgent hospitalization.

header 6 Symphysopathy

It’s a hereditary pathology when the pubic articulation is too stretched and soft, and there are hemorrhages in the area. Another symptom of symphysopathy is poor coordination of movements. What should you do? Let your doctor know!upper back pain during pregnancy - massage

header 7 Diseases of the internal organs

If the upper back pain during pregnancy is accompanied by raised temperature, edema, blood in the urine, pain under the ribs from the left or right side of the body, you can be seriously ill. These signs can indicate an inflammatory process in the kidneys, pancreatic gland or bladder. Pancreatitis in pregnant women is rare, but pyelonephritis often manifests itself exactly during pregnancy.

header 8 Hormonal changes

The female body produces hormone relaxin during pregnancy. Under the influence of relaxin, the quite immobile pelvic joints and intervertebral ligaments stretch and relax. Thus your body is getting ready for giving birth. The side-effect of this hormone is upper back pain during pregnancy as a consequence of overstrained muscles and spinal column.

7 effective ways to relieve upper back pain during pregnancy

header 1 Products containing a lot of calcium

They are cottage cheese, yoghurt, milk, meat. You can also fulfill the need for calcium with the help of hard cheese, nuts, greengrocery, and fish. If the upper back pain during pregnancy disturbs you on a regular basis, you can alleviate it taking calcium medications, but you’ll need to consult a doctor first.

header 2 Comfortable footwear

Since the early pregnancy stages, you should forget about high-heeled shoes. The perfect footwear for a future mother is the one made from natural materials, not too tight, and with comfortable soles.upper back pain during pregnancy - future mom wearing comfortable boots

header 3 Collect items lying on the floor correctly!

You should do it sitting on your haunches. Lean down only after you’ve bent your knees. Don’t collect things from the floor while you’re leaning down with your back straight. And, of course, it’s better to ask for help instead of reaching for the item yourself.

header 4 Proper posture

Standing upright or walking: taut buttocks, shoulders pulled back and down, back straight. This is the so-called “proud posture of a future mom”.

While sitting: make sure the chair is comfortable, your knees should be raised a bit – so that they are a little higher than on the lower back level. You can put a small pillow under your lower back for the muscles in this area to relax. You should also endeavor not to make any movements that put additional pressure on your spine.

You should change your position as often as possible, even when you’re lying down (turn from side to side). Don’t stand for too long. If you absolutely have to do it, try putting your feet (one at a time) on some sort of a platform – a stair or threshold – in order to put the load off your back.

header 5 Get enough sleep

You have to get enough sleep if you want to feel well and be in good health during pregnancy. The correct sleeping pose is lying on your right side. Try not to turn on your back while sleeping because that can cause upper back pain.

Pregnant women often complain about insomnia. If this is your case, try to relax and get some sleep during the day. Upper back pain during pregnancy sometimes disappears if you lie down on your right or left side just for a minute or two.upper back pain during pregnancy - pregnant woman sleeping

header 6 Exercise!

You shouldn’t gain more weight than normal. By the end of the pregnancy, you should gain no more than 33 pounds of weight. Walks and exercises for pregnant women will help you to keep fit: make sure you take part in physical activities every day. If you have time and there are no contraindications – go to the swimming pool.

header 7 Pregnancy belly bands

You can’t do without it, especially if you have a large belly or your abdominal muscles are weak. Belly bands will relieve back pain, taking the load off your abdominal muscles and spine.

And don’t worry too much – remember, pain in the back during pregnancy usually subsides by itself!

You need professional help in the following cases:

  • Upper back pain during pregnancy has become sharp and you can hardly bear it;
  • You’ve started feeling pain all of the sudden and it is rapidly getting worse;
  • The pain takes the form of rhythmic spasms – it can be a sign of a premature birth.

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  1. 1

    I thought that the ideal side to sleep on during pregnancy is the left side? I’ve read that in several peer-reviewed articles.

    • 2

      Hi Sonia,
      The ideal side to sleep on during pregnancy depends on the term of pregnancy. By the end of pregnancy it is indeed better to sleep on the left side, you are right.

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