Postpartum back pain: How to get relief

Postpartum back pain is very common. Many of the physical and hormonal changes that contributed to your backaches during pregnancy can still cause you discomfort after giving birth – and new factors like changes in your posture and carrying your baby may also cause pain. Back pain usually gets better on its own within a few months, and gentle exercise, practicing proper body mechanics, and self-care can help you cope. Talk to your healthcare provider if your postpartum back pain is severe, as they may want to refer you to a physical therapist.

A woman pressing a heating pad against her lower back.
Photo credit: / solidcolours

What is postpartum back pain?

Many women experience back stiffness and soreness after giving birth, and it's normal if you feel like this pain makes taking care of and carrying your newborn around uncomfortable.

Back pain after pregnancy is very common, especially in your lower back. Research suggests that up to as many as twenty percent of women experience this discomfort for three to six months after giving birth. Back pain after you've had a c-section is also possible: Since it typically takes longer to recover from a c-section than it does to recover from a vaginal birth, the fact that you might be moving around less could cause your core muscles to weaken.

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You may experience tailbone pain after birth, or you may have upper back pain postpartum too, from lifting your baby, leaning over their crib or bassinet, wrestling with the car seat and stroller, and hunching your back while breastfeeding.

What causes postpartum back pain?

Many of those same physical changes that caused your back pain in pregnancy may still be contributing to your achy postpartum back now.

During pregnancy, your expanding uterus stretched and weakened your abdominal muscles and altered your posture, which put strain on your back. Extra weight during (and after) pregnancy not only means more work for your muscles, but also increased stress on your joints. In addition, hormonal changes during pregnancy that prepared your body to give birth loosened the joints and ligaments that attach your pelvis to your spine.

Your body went through a lot of physical and hormonal changes over the course of nine months, and the effects of those changes won’t disappear overnight. In addition, you may also have worked muscles you don't normally use during labor and delivery, so you might have some soreness and pain related to that, especially if you had a long or difficult labor.

Other factors come into play during the postpartum period, too. Many new moms inadvertently make their back problems worse by not using good posture while breastfeeding. When you're first getting the hang of how to breastfeed, you may be so focused on getting your baby to latch on correctly that you hunch over, straining your neck and upper back muscles as you look down.

The overall exhaustion and stress of taking care of a newborn 24/7 can also make it harder to recover from all aches and pains after childbirth, including back pain.

How long does back pain after pregnancy pain last?

Postpartum back pain usually gets better within a few months after delivery, though some women may continue to have pain for longer.

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If you had back pain before or during pregnancy, you're more likely to have persistent back pain after giving birth too, especially if your pain was severe or began relatively early on in your pregnancy. Being overweight also increases the risk of chronic back pain.

If you do have lingering postpartum back pain, it’s a good idea to mention it to your OB or midwife at your postpartum check-up. They can refer you to a back-pain specialist or a physical therapist, who can teach you exercises to strengthen your core and back muscles.

How to get relief from postpartum back pain

Start by letting your healthcare provider know about your back pain. They can suggest appropriate self-care measures to try at home first, and evaluate your situation to determine if you need further treatment. Common home remedies for back pain after pregnancy include:

Gentle exercises

When your back hurts, moving around may be the last thing you feel like doing, but it could be just what your body needs.

Choose a gentle form of postpartum exercise to start, such as going for an easy walk. As long as you take it slowly and keep your walks short for the first few weeks after giving birth, walking is safe to start almost immediately after either a vaginal birth or a c-section.

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When your healthcare provider says it's okay, add some pelvic tilts to your daily routine, and begin introducing other exercises that aim to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. Try gentle stretching exercises or yoga – just be sure to avoid overstretching or extreme positions. And always listen to your body. If a certain position or activity causes discomfort, stop right away.


Practicing proper body mechanics

Keep these tips in mind throughout the day:

  • Stand – and sit – up straight.
  • Pay attention to your body position when feeding your baby, whether you're breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Choose a comfortable chair with armrests, and use lots of pillows to give extra support to your back and arms. If you're breastfeeding, consider buying a breastfeeding pillow that goes around your middle. Try a footstool to keep your feet slightly raised off the floor, which can help with proper posture.
  • Learn the proper breastfeeding positions: For starters, always bring your baby to your breast, rather than the other way around. Also, don't be afraid to experiment with different breastfeeding positions until you find what's most comfortable. If you have tense shoulders and upper postpartum back pain, a side-lying position may provide some relief. If you need more help with breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can be a good resource.
  • Always bend from your knees, not your waist, and pick up objects (or children) from a crouching position to minimize the stress you're putting on your back.
  • Let someone else do the heavy lifting for a while, especially if you've had a c-section.

Finding time for self-care

Taking good care of yourself may help ease soreness and tension, and help you deal with postpartum back pain. At the very least, it may provide some temporary relief.


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  • Soak in a warm tub, once your provider has told you that postpartum baths are okay.
  • Use a heating pad or a cold pack on the painful area. (Cover it to protect your skin.)
  • Get a massage to soothe pulled muscles, tense shoulders, and low back pain.
  • Learn a few relaxation techniques. These may help you cope with some of the discomfort and can be especially useful if you're feeling achy at bedtime.
  • Try transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Some people report that using one of these small, inexpensive devices temporarily relieves their low back pain.

More ways to get back pain relief

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: Don't take more than the recommended dosage, and talk to your healthcare provider if you find you need to take pain-relief medication more than occasionally, or if the medication isn't helping.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach you exercises to relieve or prevent pain.
  • Alternative treatments, such as acupuncture or chiropractic care. There's some evidence that these treatments may provide pain relief.

When to call your provider about back pain after pregnancy

While postpartum back pain is common, and usually resolves on its own after a few weeks, severe pain can also indicate an underlying neurological problem, or even an infection. If you notice any of the below signs, call your healthcare provider as soon as possible:

  • Your back pain is severe, constant, or getting progressively worse.
  • Your back pain was caused by trauma or is accompanied by a fever.
  • You lose feeling in one or both legs, or you suddenly feel uncoordinated or weak.
  • You lose sensation in your buttocks, groin, or genital area (including your bladder or anus). This may either make it hard to pee or have a bowel movement, or cause incontinence.
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Hallie Levine
Hallie Levine is an award-winning journalist who has covered health and wellness for more than 20 years. She lives with her three children in Fairfield, Connecticut.