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Back Pain with Pregnancy

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Pregnancy & Childbirth > Back Pain with Pregnancy



Pregnant and worried about my chronic back pain

April 2007

Hello. I'm a newly pregnant 38-year-old who has suffered from chronic upper-back pain for the last two years. It's undiagnosable (which is not, apparently, unusual), and has not responded to any conventional or alternative treatment - I've covered the waterfront, from trigger-point injections to medication to acupuncture to PT. I'm worried that I won't be able to care for my child properly. Carrying groceries, doing household chores, and computer work all increase my pain now. Am I crazy to think I can care for a baby? We've wanted a child for so long, and given my age, this might be our last chance. I'm only several weeks along now, and my anxiety is already building. Does anyone else out there have experience caring for a child when in chronic pain? Thanks for any advice! - maybe mom-to-be


You said you've been thru the gammet of alternative care but you didn't mention chiropractors. I can highly recommend Dr. Elon Bartlett. Elon has a ''family practice'' but works mostly with pregnant women with all kinds of different issues. I think it would be really worth talking to him and possibly setting iup an appt. The office is at 2509 Milia between Blake and Dwight way in Bkly. Give him a call...I bet he can help.NO need to go thru your pregnancy, childbirth (well, maybe childbirth) and raising your babe with back pain. Good luck. June
Provided that you have ongoing communication with your general physician, and have ruled out any major medical issue, I highly recommend enrolling in a prenatal restorative yoga class, swimming or taking a prenatal water aerobics class, and also splurging when you can on a good masseuse.The more stress you put on yourself by worrying about your back pain will not only exacerbate the back pain, but also hinder you from the happiness of connecting with your unborn child. This is a beautiful time in your lives...enjoy your pregnancy - you will be able to handle this! Additionally, you can find many ergonomically-oriented baby gear sites/products that will help you maintain healthy a healthy back post-delivery. Best wishes to you and your family!
There's a fantastic book called Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno that I really recommend to anyone going through back pain for whatever the reason/source/origin and however severe. Hope this helps
Finally, something I have expertise in! I am 37 and also have chronic back pain (herniated disk in L5 area), and now have a 6 month old baby. When I was preggers, the most worrying thing was how I would do when I was bigger and had more ligament relaxing hormones in me. The short answer is: I did much better than I expected.

The most important thing for me what to keep up my treatments with Directive Non-Force Chiropractic, which is the only thing that ever helps me. I see Margaret Weber in Alameda (769-7139). It's a gentle, non-cracking type of technique. I needed weekly work when I was nearing the end of the pg, and I tell you, she saved my ass.

The next most important thing is always keeping good posture. You'll need lots of buckwheat pillows around when you have your baby, so that you can position the baby and yourself well during the repetitive activities. It's amazing how contorted you can get doing just normal activities with a little one. Just be aware at all times. ((Part 2 follows)) Momma


Get a changing table at a good height for you. I like the ones with a tall lip, so that the baby can't roll off. Instead of bathing your baby in the sink or with a baby tub, get yourself into the bathtub with the baby.

When you put the baby in a baby swing, sit down first on a stool next to it, then reach over to put her in - less bending.

When you're on the floor with the baby, put her on the couch, then get up from the floor, then pick her up from the couch, instead of the floor. Less bending. (If you're agile, you can just get up still holding her, but I'm not!)

Laying and down while breastfeeding is the holy grail for people. But with the back trouble, it's never been all that comfortable for me. But for your type of pain, it may be ok. Ask someone to show you.

Baby carriers: there are many different types and you'll want to try them all out for what's most comfortable. Buy used, and think of expense as an experiment. For me, the Moby wrap when she little, now the sling is working for us, the ergo was less than comfortable for me. FOr me, it's easier to have the baby in a baby carrier than to actually hold her, and it may be for you, too.

Next thing -- at some point, your baby will help you pick her up. My daughter was around 4 months old, when she started to understand what I meant by my outstretched hands -- that I was about to pick her up. She now ''helps'' by offering her arms so that I will bend at the waist less.

Last thing: have a tour of the hospital and see the birthing beds to see what birthing positions are possible on it. Practice what positions feel comfortable for you, and stick with them. They may suggest lots of other positions to you, and in the heat of the moment, you may feel tempted to try them, but don't! Stick with the ones you know mentally will keep you from more pain. Bring your own pillows for bolstering your position. I ended up using a rolled up sweatpants as a bolster. Momma


Chronic pain such as you describe can be very debilitating and especially hard to function with if you are trying to care for a child while in pain. You mentioned you have tried multiple alternative therapies without success but it sounds like you are still open to ideas. I am an experienced yoga teacher, massage therapist and aromatherapist and have had a lot of success with clients who suffer from chronic pain using a combination of massage for relaxation, essential oils to reduce inflammation and support emotional health, and yoga to build strength and flexibility bringing balance into the body. Nicole
I HIGHLY recommend Allan Herranen who for approx. $135 will come to your house & work on you for 1.75 hours (deep tissue massage/yoga stretches/self care/rolfing if you want). He has worked on pregnant women, including me. He helped me turn my carpal tunnel syndrome around naturally. He is gentle and deep, all within your bounds. He really is a miracle worker, so if you can afford it, I cannot recommend him highly enough. He is also a yoga instructor if you want to check him out first in his class in SF. Don't be scared by his very deep voice. Claudia
Have you tried network chiropractic? I often experience upper back pain, usually related to emotional tension that I hold there. Network chiropractic has really helped me. It was also great when I was having pelvic pain during my pregnancies. My network chiropractor is Koichi from Hikari Chiropractic in Berkeley. He's excellent. Elena
I suffered for 10 yrs with chronic back pain before getting pregnant at 37. I had the very same fears. I now have a 1 year old and am not hindered in my ability to care for her. I found that my back pain completely disappeared at about week 6 of my pregnancy. I had NO BACK PAIN at all during most of my pregnancy, even during labor. I even gained 40 lbs. It is only now just coming back sporadically, only not as severe as before. I still do not have my period yet, however. I believe my severe chronic back pain may be related to menstrual hormones (it's really bad right before my period). More importantly, though, I think my mental state really affects my back pain. When I am really suppressing things, my back pain gets unbearable. I have also tried everything to treat it, both traditional and non-traditional. Dealing with my emotions and feelings seems to be the best treatment. I am still working on this, though... Don't worry - you will be a great mom and more than physically capable of taking care of your little one. (You might check out this book -- Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by John E. Sarno.) Amazing Mom with Back Pain
Many, many parents with disabilities including back pain have raised children. Through the looking glass would be a good place to start.

If you are not in physical therapy, consider starting now. A relationship with a physical therapist and a massage therapist can make a huge difference. The sooner in your pregnancy you start these proactive treatements the better. Some people find chiropractic also very helpful. Ideas:

Put your child in a stroller even in the house

Make sure everything is ergonomic and at your level in the house

Find a good occupational therapist to help you with adaptive equipment such as reachers and other aids. You should not be bending over or reaching.

When you take your baby from the crib, wait until she comes to the sides and lifs herself up.

Make sure to take good care of your back. Water exercise during pregnancy can be a very helpful. Short walks can alleviate back pain, too.

Take it slowly and good luck! I started my pregnancy with back pain and it got better as the pregnancy went on. Pregnancy hormones (relaxin for example) can do great things. You need to work with your body -- espeically taking car of stomach muscles. You can do it! Anon


Sorry this is late, but I did want to respond. I too have back pain from herniated discs as well as a chronic illness that affects my joints (as well as other symptoms). This was a major reason I waited to have a baby. But, I now have an amazing 11 month old. While it is very dificult, I can honestly say I would not take it back for the world. Motherhood is hard and even harder with physical limitations. But well worth it!

Despite my (and my doctor's worries), pregnancy actually made my chronic illness a lot better. My back did got through a really bad period, but seemed to regain steam and held in there till the end. I did do a home program of prenatal yoga and physical therapy exercises. I saw a PT early on to come up with an apropriate program as well as a yoga instructor (I saw Betsy Appell www.berkeleydoula.com, who worked with my physical limitations to come up with a good program). I also saw an accupuncturist on a monthly basis.

As for after you have the baby, I'd make sure you get enough help possible. I didn't and it made it a lot harder. Take advantage of family members, neighbors, and make sure you get some breaks. A physical therapist may be able to come up with a postpartum home program to help you with body mechanics, strengthening, etc. too.

I'd talk over your concerns with you GP and OBGYN too -- they may have some suggestions. Anyway, those are my 2 cents. Good luck and take care!!! Anon Mom


Pain just below my bra line

Aug 2004

I know many women have lower back pain during pregnancy, but I have mid back pain, just below the bra line and mainly on the left side. One OB/Gyn I've seen doesn't think it's OB related. As I've never had any kind of back pain previously, I really doubt that. I'm doing prenatal yoga once a week and swimming and stretching, but I still end up sitting against a heating pad almost every night. My husband rubs my back often, and I've had professional massage once; none of this helps, but I'm willing to try it again, and maybe chiropractic(?). Has anyone experienced this kind of pain? Did anything you did work? Can you recommend a massage therapist and/or chiropractor who works on pregnant women? Thanks for any and all advice. Nicole


I experienced the same thing! My first midwife didn't have any suggestions but my second one did. Her theory, which made sense to me, was that the baby was putting pressure on a nerve ganglion that was referring the pain to my back. I was a student at the time and I would cry almost every afternoon because I was carrying my backpack as well as my baby, and hauling myself all over campus. Boy, I am glad that is over with. It turns out that I have a small fibroid. It is possible that my little guy found it a good spot to rub, and caused pain in my back. I did yoga, swimming, etc. but unfortunately for me, it didn't go away until after he was born. He was the bigger of my babies; I didn't have the back pain with my daughter, who was a full pound lighter, and one inch shorter. Perhaps that had something to do with it, but I recall the pain starting at around 20 weeks or so. I can't imagine he would be big enough at that gestation to cause problems due to his bulk! Anyway, that may be what is going on with you. I found wearing bras made the pain worse, so I bought a few exercise tank tops to give me breast support without the rib pressure. Taking breaks throughout the day to lay down and relax my back muscles also helped a lot. Good luck to you! Hang in there, it'll be over eventually. Been There
i had that kind of back pain too!!! so frustrating. and unexpected. yoga helped - it was best when I went to three classes a week. particularly doing 'trout' pose and being on all fours, placing one hand below center of chest and sweeping the other arm up towards the sky. i got massages and liked leslie at that place where college meets claremont. and i got cranial-sacral work from Patti Rochette D.O. congratulations and best of luck Julia
Hey I thought I was the only one! I'm ~5 months along and have bra-line back pain - but on the right side. My OB says, well you have a little scoliosis there, that's probably causing it - but I had no pain before PG. Funny, just as I'm typing this I had a thought - while I've had almost no weight gain, certainly weight has shifted, noticeably to my breasts (yours too I'm sure!). Maybe it's a function of the increased upper chest weight? I was fairly small chested and am now ample. Anyway - hot water bottle and massages are my remedy too... cynthia
Dr. Arn Strasser is a chiropractor who has 20 years experience treating back pain of pregnancy, including midback pain. He takes a very gentle approach, he doesn't overtreat and he regularly works with pregnant women and children. He combines soft tissue and physical therapy as needed with gentle, non- force and low-force techniques--and depending on the problem it can often be fixed really quickly. We are preferred insurance providers. We're right across the bridge in downtown San Rafael. Visit www.chirocranial.com. Call for questions, 415-482-0500. Susan at Dr. Strasser's drstrasser AT earthlink.net
I had nerve pain in my right leg during my pregnancy and saw a WONDERFUL massage therapist every week. The pain didn't ever go away, but she helped my whole body feel better and more in balance. Other parts of my body were working overtime to try and help my back/ leg pain. Massage really helped! The massage therapist's name is Cate Bristol--she's in Albany on Solano. I also saw a chiropractor (who specializes in prenatal issues). Elon Bartlett: 843-1234. He's in Berkeley. He is really kind and caring, does a thorough assessment of yoru body, recommends great stretches, and does gentle adjustments. My nerve pain had been progressively getting worse! until I saw him. After a few visits, it stabilized--never went away, but it didn't get any worse. I was able to function, work and be relatively comfortable for my pregnancy. Both Cate and Elon are very tuned-in, caring healers. massage/chiropractor fan
I had pretty bad back pain with my second pregnancy. It was just above the lower back. I had always been wary of chiropractic, but I was in such pain that I was willing to try anything. Glad I did. My chiropractor saved me. I have seen her regularly since then (6 years now). If I remember correctly, my problem was stretched ligaments...my joints were spreading and the ligaments and muscles weren't being held in place properly as a result. Or something like that. Anyway, my chiropractor's name is Cynthia Santelli. Her practice is very near the Grand Lake theater in Oakland: 466 Santa Clara Avenue; ! tel. 444-0188. anon
Nicole Your problem is very common during pregnancy there are many factors that could be contributing to your pain. It is important to get a proper evaluation of the problem. I am a physical therapist and I think that you would benifit from seeing a physical therapist who has expirence in prenatal care. I would recommend Taylor and Thornberg Physical Therapy in Oakland, or Center for Sports Medicine in Walnut Creek.(I work at the Walnut Creek facility) Check with your insurance to see where you can get physical therapy. It can make a big difference that can last. Danielle
Chiropractic has had great success helping pregnant women with back pain. While you are pregnant, your body releases a hormone which begins to relax the the ligaments in your body so that by the time of delivery, your! pelvis can open in order to deliver the baby. When this happens in areas where structural imbalances are present, then you may experience pain even if these structural imbalances did not cause pain prior to the pregnancy.

I have worked with many pregnant women in my practice over the years and have gotten many referrals from midwives. I would be glad to see if I could help you if you would like. You may reach me at my office at 510.526-1559. Many pregnant women under chiropractic care often report having easier deliveries also!!! Lori-Ann Gertonson, D.C.


I'm sorry to hear about your pain. I, too, have suffered from a fair amount of mid-back pain during my pregnancy (I'm about 34 weeks now). In addition to wearing out my husband's thumbs, doing prenatal yoga, swimming, and using a heating pad, I've found a few other solutions. First, I've been getting excellent and affordable prenatal massages from Judy Klamecki, who works out of her home in Kensington 499-9307. Also, I've tremendously enjoyed Dawn Loretz's prenatal exercise class on Tuesday evenings -- info at http://dawn.dyndns.tv/index.htm. She is a physical therapist and tailors the class to each woman's particular needs. Finally, I don't know if this is an issue for you or not, but I ! believe I owe a fair amount of my mid-back pain to the size of my chest. The woman who fits maternity bras at Cotton & Company helped me find a bra that was very supportive. I hope you feel better soon. Sharing your pain
I also experienced severe back pain during my last pregnancy. Jesse Allen, located in Fremont is absolutely wonderful. I was nearly unable to walk in the 8th month of my last pregnancy and within a week Jesse had me up and moving around. Jesse has become a family mainstay over the years. Our entire family has been using Jesse for over 12 years with no negative experiences. He is excellent with pregnant women. If the drive is not too far I would strongly recommend giving him a call; his number is 510-795-2703. If the drive is too far, ask him for a recommendation, he's very helpful, well networked within the bay, and a very nice person. kate
I had the same mid-back pain you mention during the last trimester of my pregnancy. I also wasn't sure if it was pregnancy related (I searched all over the internet for information) and my OB said it probably wasn't. Possibly I pulled something when reaching up high while trying not to lean my stomach against the counter. There wasn't much I could do about the pain, my husband gave me lots of massages and I used an ice pack. I can't remember when the pain went away, it may have lasted through childbirth. anon
Mid back pain is actually very common in pregnancy and after. It's caused by altered spine alignment. When the body is out of ideal alignment, certain muscle groups have to work too hard in the upright position to support the spine, and become overly tight and sometimes painful. (Opposing muscle groups weaken and atrophy.) I'd suggest that you see a chiropractor who specializes in pregnancy. Dr. Elon Bartlett, of Bartlett Chiropractic in Berkeley, is very good. Helene Byrne author, ''Exercise After Pregnancy: How to Look and Feel Your Best''

Upper back pain - only 5 weeks pregnant

Jan 2004

I am only 5 weeks pregnant and have a very sore upper back (where neck meets back). I've never had any sort of back pain before. Could this be pregnancy-related? Has anyone had this? Expecting


I had terrible problems with upper back and neck pain during both of my pregnancies. Like you, I'd had no back trouble before that. I continued to have trouble until each of my children was about 6 months old. I don't know if this is related or not, but I also got tendonitis in one hand while gardening during one pregnancy, and the doctor told me that that wasn't an uncommon injury. He said that ligaments were more vulnerable during pregnancy. I don't know if that could help explain the back and neck problems, or if it's simply due to the weight of the baby, both before and after birth. I sympathize! Sorry I don't have any advice to offer, though. Patty
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