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Pregnant, Hormonal & Sore: why your back and hips can really ache in pregnancy

I hear these kinds of statements everyday in practice:

“Amanda, my back has never been this sore- I’m only 20 weeks!”,

“I did hurt my hip playing hockey 5 years ago, I thought I was over that but pregnancy has brought it all back!”,

“I can’t sit at my desk for more than 5 minutes without my tailbone burning since I went into the 3rd trimester- help!”

So, let’s talk about what might be going on here with these types of cases. Why is it that some women get so incredibly sore in their muscles and joints during pregnancy, even to the point where an old injury can resurface; and other women seem to go through their pregnancy without even a niggle (I call them unicorn pregnancies b.t.w- as they are more rare than a snow leopard)?

Research suggests that hormones, in particular a hormone called relaxin, is likely to be at the core of this issue. A relationship between the release of this hormone and pain vulnerability from pelvic instability has been found.

So, what is relaxin’s job?

One of its main jobs is to prepare the pregnant pelvis for childbirth. It relaxes the ligaments of the pelvis and helps to soften and widen the cervix.

This is obviously great for opening the pelvis for childbirth…

But, one of the side effects of this process is the pelvis and back can get very sore due to instability.

The women most at risk of experiencing pain are those that are already deficient in their musculoskeletal stability (and might not even know it). This can be from a pre-existing injury, weakness in musculature, mechanical stressors from work posture (like sitting, driving, computer work) or genetic predisposition (those who are naturally very flexible).

So, what should we do about it?

Luckily, there are lots of things that you can do to support your body to help improve any pain due to hormonal surges/instability:

1. Movement and exercise

Even though it may seem counterintuitive, movement and exercise during pregnancy can be the best way to prevent and manage back and pelvic pain. Starting early can help improve your stability and the strength of your important pelvic muscles. Examples of pregnancy friendly exercise include: walking, pilates, yoga or swimming.

2. Drink plenty of water

I’m sure you’ve heard it before but I will say it again. Water is a lifeblood. Our body systems need enough water to function well and the musculoskeletal system is no exception. Aim to drink 1L of water for every 25 kg of body weight per day. Or, judge how much you need by the colour of your urine. Pale yellow or clear is a sign of hydration. But be careful not to overdo it, you can wash electrolytes from your body if you drink too much water, you may want to ask your health professional for guidance with this step.

3. Eat highly nutritious food

Try to incorporate protein, fats and carbohydrates into your meals. Ideas include:

  • Protein: lean meat, eggs, small oily fish (sardines, mackerel)
  • Healthy fats: avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, olives
  • Carbohydrate: vegetables, fruits, wholegrains

Talking with your health professional regarding nutrition is highly recommended in pregnancy; as it can be overwhelming for some women knowing what and how much to eat.

4. Prioritise sleep

Sleep helps your body to heal. Sometimes we need a gentle reminder to prioritise our sleep over other things… I know it can be reeaaaaallly… hard to turn off that screen and rest but it is so important for your health.

5. Sort out your aches and pains

See a Chiropractor or other therapist to help with pain and injury. We are experts in treating the musculoskeletal system and can help you manage and overcome annoying pain and injury that can make pregnancy, childbirth and post birth recovery harder than it needs to be… and who wants that?

Hope you enjoyed the read

Enjoy your day

Amanda