7 Safe And Effective Methods For Relieving Lower Back Pain When You're Pregnant

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Why do some women experience lower back pain during pregnancy?

Lower back pain is a common occurrence in pregnancy, impacting most pregnant women in the United States. One study¹ found that one-third of pregnant women can expect to suffer from severe back pain symptoms. The report also noted that many cases started between the 20th and 28th week of gestation, continuing into three weeks postpartum 38% of the time.

One reason why so many women experience lower back pain while pregnant is all the physical changes their bodies go through in the 40-week duration.  It’s common to gain as much as 40 pounds² during pregnancy, causing shifts in the front portion of the body that result in changes to posture.

Some other potential reasons for lower back pain during pregnancy can include:

  • Sciatica 

  • Stretching of muscles causing a decline in abdominal strength

  • Hormonal changes relax ligaments

  • Increased abdominal girth

  • Spinal nerve compression due to weight gain

What are some common risk factors?

Research¹ indicates several common risk factors for developing low back pain in pregnancy:

History of pelvic trauma

Pelvic trauma can result from any accident causing a forceful impact on your pelvic area, such as a car crash, bike accident, or fall.

Chronic back pain outside of pregnancy

If you already suffer from chronic back pain, there is a higher chance you will also suffer pregnancy-related lower back pain.

Back pain during previous pregnancies

It’s common for women who have had lower back pain in the past to experience it again in future pregnancies (although it is not guaranteed). 

What can help relieve lower back pain during pregnancy?

There are a couple of ways to relieve lower back pain, with treatments varying by the individual and the severity of the pain experienced. Medical treatment is ideal to avoid a decline in quality of life. On the other hand, at-home remedies can be an excellent solution for more mild cases of low back pain.

Medical treatments

If your pain requires medical treatment, you may be prescribed or recommended one or more of the following:


For persistent lower back pain, your doctor will sometimes recommend a safe dosage of acetaminophen or prescribe muscle relaxants. While you can get acetaminophen over the counter, it’s always better to consult your doctor about what’s best for you and your baby.


Your doctor may recommend that you work with a physical therapist to help strengthen your abdominal and back muscles and improve mobility. According to a 2015 review³, evidence suggests that acupuncture and pelvic belts can positively affect pain, while evidence supporting the benefits of specific exercises is weak.

Prenatal massage

For individuals who do not need ongoing therapy for their lower back pain, the occasional professional massage can help relieve the discomfort. According to one review⁴, pregnant women who received a prenatal massage experienced reduced leg pain, anxiety, back pain, and noradrenaline levels (a neurotransmitter that plays a role in fight or flight reactions). The review also noted an improvement in mood and calmer, deeper sleep. With a written prescription from your doctor, you can use your HSA (Health Savings Account) or FSA (Flexible Spending Account) to cover the cost of prenatal massage. 

At-home remedies

Whether or not you’re taking medication and getting prenatal massages to alleviate pain, it can be beneficial to try some at-home remedies as well (with your doctor’s approval). According to research studies, the following remedies are among the top solutions for relieving pregnancy-related lower back pain and associated issues:

Stretching and yoga

A small study⁵ of 20 women with uncomplicated pregnancies between 12 and 26 weeks found that a prenatal yoga intervention can improve both maternal well-being and mobility. Some great yoga and stretching combinations for pregnancy-related issues with lower back pain include the ankle-to-knee pose, standing forward bend, seated side bend, and the wide-knee child’s pose.

Water aerobics

According to one medical review⁶, studies suggest that water therapy has been linked to relieving pain and even reducing the demand for sick leave as a result of pregnancy-related lower back pain. Some useful water exercises include aqua jogging, flutter kicking, squats, leg lifts, and knee-ups. Swimming can also be beneficial for lower back pain.

Light exercise

Research shows that exercise before and during the early stages of pregnancy can significantly reduce the chances of lower back pain, or at least the severity of the symptoms. Light exercise can strengthen your back, abdominal, and pelvic muscles, making them better able to support the added weight. One study² reported a reduction in pain after a three times a week, 12-week program during the second half of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that exercise during pregnancy is safe as long as your pregnancy is progressing normally and you’re healthy⁷.  Make sure to discuss your exact plan during an early prenatal appointment.


Acupuncture involves strategically placing thin needles into the skin at particular points in your body to stimulate the central nervous system. According to research⁸, acupuncture is strongly linked to reduced pelvic and lower back pain.

Osteopathic manipulation

This hands-on approach to medicine has been mentioned in studies⁸ as a method that has “significantly reduced low back pain.” A randomized controlled trial⁹ also found that osteopathic manipulative treatment can relieve (and sometimes stop) back pain in the third trimester of pregnancy.

When should you see a doctor?

You should always bring up any pregnancy symptoms that concern you when talking to your doctor — even if they don’t seem like much of a problem to you at first. While lower back pain is one of the most common pregnancy-related symptoms women experience, it can be a sign of something more concerning if:

  • The pain becomes severe

  • The pain is accompanied by cramping or vaginal bleeding

  • You lose bowel or bladder control

  • You have a fever and/or urinary problems

  • You’re experiencing numbness/tingling in your legs or feet

The lowdown

Many women experience a slow onset of lower back pain as their pregnancy progresses, so it isn’t automatically worrisome for a patient to experience some level of mild ongoing pain in the area. However, you should immediately see a doctor if the pain comes on rapidly, is severe, or is accompanied by numbness and tingling, loss of bowel and bladder control, vaginal bleeding, uterine cramping, urinary symptoms, or a fever.

If this is not the case, you may be able to do one or more of the following to relieve pregnancy-related lower back pain:

  • Take a safe dosage of acetaminophen—with your physician’s approval.

  • Obtain a referral from your doctor for physiotherapy, and get help and guidance from an expert on the best exercises for lower back pain relief while pregnant.

  • Get prenatal massages from a qualified professional who is aware of the pregnancy with your doctor’s approval.

  • Regularly stretch throughout your pregnancy. Prenatal yoga can be helpful with a combination of meditation and light stretching to improve your mobility and state of mind.

  • Use a local pool for water aerobics and exercising to reduce the strain on your body while strengthening muscles.

  • Participate in light exercises like walking, biking, and more to keep your body healthy and active.

All of these methods should first be discussed with your doctor to determine their safety during your pregnancy. Since every pregnancy is unique, your doctor can work closely with you to determine the best treatment for you.

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