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Pregnancy and Lower Back Pain: The Hidden Cause
By Dr. Thomas Sullivan

pregnancy back painThe decisions of picking a name… The anticipation and excitement… Painting the new room… Clothing, diapers and family celebrations. The joy of a pregnancy is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Unfortunately however, for many women the later months of pregnancy can prove to be quite challenging. One common problem many women face is lower back pain.

Lower back pain can be a horrible interruption in day-to-day activities for a pregnant woman. More importantly, it interferes with their quality of life, not to mention the enjoyment of one of the most memorable times of their life.

The obvious cause of lower back pain is the biomechanical stress being placed on the mother by the added weight of baby. As the baby gains weight the mother is pulled forward. To compensate for this forward pull, the mother has to lean her upper body backward. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the low back and pelvis.

This explanation of low back pain sounds complete. It is a true explanation but is only a small part the problem. The “hidden” cause of lower back pain is actually muscle imbalances. In fact, muscle imbalances are a common cause of lower back pain in pregnancy but they are also responsible for back pain in a majority of the population.

The strength and tone of the muscular system is an extremely important factor when assessing a patient with lower back pain. Unfortunately, muscle imbalances are not addressed properly by most health practitioners. But just because they are not trained in identifying and addressing muscle imbalances, it doesn’t mean you have to continue to suffer.

But before I share with you the solution to this problem, let me first explain in more detail what a muscle imbalance is and how it causes back pain and sciatica.

In a nutshell, muscle imbalances work like this. Muscles work together with opposing muscles to allow movement at joints. One muscle stretches while the other shortens. Each side should be of equal tone and strength. When a pregnant woman walks, moves, bends, twists or sleeps she will typically do so in an unbalanced and awkward manner to accommodate for her increased weight. In addition, various everyday activities and positions we put our body in create imbalances in the muscle groups and during pregnancy it only worsens.

Muscle imbalances then pull the pelvis and low back out of alignment and this places uneven and excessive stress on the muscles, bones and joints.

The spine is comprised of 24 movable bones with a shock-absorbing disc in between each bone. This spinal column rests on three large bones called the pelvic girdle. When this spinal column is in proper alignment it will carry a majority of the weight and stress being placed on the body. When one or more of these 24 bones misaligns, especially the pelvis, the muscles work overtime, so to speak. They now have to carry the weight that the spinal column is supposed to handle. At this point the muscles are unbalanced and are very prone to an injury. Lower back pain is the most common expression of this problem.

If the above scenario takes place then the stage has been set for lower back pain and dysfunction. Not only do expectant moms have to deal with safely carrying the baby, they have to now do it with a painful lower back.

The solution is based on a better understanding of muscle imbalances and how your body works. The first thing you have to do is fully understand what muscle imbalances are, how they are created and how they cause back pain and sciatica.

Once you understand muscle imbalances, the next step is to identify the ones you have and understand how they are creating your pain. After you have identified the imbalances is when you can then begin addressing them with the right combination of corrective exercises, stretches and treatments.

For more information on how to treat all forms of Back Pain read the latest Back Pain Advisory from The Healthy Back Institute. Visit to sign up for your free back pain e-mail educational course and to learn more about how to identify and address your muscle imbalances.

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About the author:

Dr Thomas Sullivan earned his undergraduate degree from The Johns Hopkins University in 1993 and received his Doctorate of Chiropractic in 1997 from Life College of Chiropractic. He is a Certified Active Release Practitioner and Director of Sullivan Chiropractic and Muscle Therapy Center in Manhattan, New York.

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