Easing Upper Back Pain for Expecting Moms

Find the exact care you need, from exactly the right doctors.

Find My Doctor
upper back pain pregnancy

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve noticed some achiness in your upper back since becoming pregnant. As your resident experts in all things back pain, we at Kaly want you to know you’re not alone. Many expecting moms experience upper back discomfort as their bodies change to accommodate their growing baby.

How Can You Find Relief?

The good news is there are many ways to prevent and treat upper back pain during pregnancy! Here are a few tips:

We understand firsthand how painful this can be, and we’re here to provide you with empathy, expertise, and solutions. Consider us your partner as you navigate pregnancy and manage any upper back pain that comes with it.

Upper Back Pain Pregnancy FAQs

To help you manage upper back pain during your pregnancy, we’ve put together this FAQ. Read on to learn about:

We hope these tips and insights provide some relief from that nagging upper back pain as you sail through the rest of your pregnancy! 

Why is my upper back sore during pregnancy?

There are a few reasons your upper back may feel sore when you’re expecting. One is your posture. As your belly grows, you naturally arch your back and roll your shoulders forward to compensate for the added weight in front. This puts strain on your upper back muscles, ligaments and spine. 

Changing hormone levels during pregnancy can also loosen ligaments and joints in the body, including in the back, which can lead to pain. 

Is bad upper back pain normal while pregnant?

Mild to moderate upper back pain is common and usually normal during pregnancy as your body goes through so many changes. However, severe or debilitating upper back pain is not normal and may be a sign of a problem that needs medical attention

Bad upper back pain that does not get better with rest, changes in activity or over-the-counter pain medication should be evaluated by your doctor or midwife.

Why am I still experiencing upper back pain after pregnancy?

There are a few reasons you may still have upper back pain even after giving birth:

  • Your posture is still off from carrying a baby for 9 months. Keeping good posture and building back strength with exercises can help improve this over time.
  • You have residual strain or minor injury to muscles, ligaments or tendons in the upper back area from pregnancy. This should heal with rest, gentle stretching, massage or physical therapy.
  • There is an underlying condition causing the pain separate from pregnancy, like arthritis, poor posture or muscle imbalance. See your doctor for an evaluation.
  • You are now carrying and breastfeeding your baby, which still puts strain on the upper back. Be sure to use good posture when holding your baby and during nursing.

Why am I experiencing extreme upper back pain during pregnancy?

Occasional mild to moderate upper back pain is common during pregnancy, but extreme or severe upper back pain is not normal and could indicate a more serious problem. Contact your doctor or midwife immediately if you have extreme upper back pain along with:

  • Pain that comes on suddenly
  • Pain unaffected by changes in activity or position
  • Pain that radiates to your chest or ribs
  • Pain with breathing deeply
  • Pain with coughing or sneezing
  • Numbness or tingling in the upper back or arms
  • Weakness in the arms or hands
  • Fever, chills, nausea or vomiting

These may be signs of a rare but serious condition like a blood clot, spinal infection, preeclampsia or placental abruption that requires emergency medical care. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.

Does being pregnant with twins cause upper back pain?

Carrying twins puts extra strain on the body, so upper back pain is very common with twin pregnancy. The excess weight in front shifts your center of gravity sooner, causing you to lean back to compensate. This strains the upper back muscles. 

Your abdomen also grows larger faster than with a singleton, so you may hunch over for comfort, creating upper back strain. The hormone relaxin is higher with twins as well, loosening joints and ligaments more which can increase upper back pain. 

What causes upper back rib pain during pregnancy?

Rib pain felt in the upper back during pregnancy often results from the ribcage expanding to allow for lung growth. The ligaments attached to the ribs stretch and loosen which can cause aching pain along the ribs that radiates to the upper back. 

Your doctor can prescribe pain medication if needed for severe rib pain. Report any very severe rib pain promptly as it may indicate preeclampsia.

What could cause upper back rib pain on the left side during pregnancy?

Left-sided rib pain felt in the upper back is common during pregnancy thanks to the expandng ribcage, changes to posture and hormonal shifts. However, left upper back rib pain can also result from:

  • Gas causing referred pain from the stomach up to the ribs and back. Avoid gassy foods.
  • Constipation straining the left abdominal and back muscles. Stay hydrated and active.
  • Irritation where the ribs join the spine due to hormonal loosening.
  • Compression on the nerves that run between the ribs causing radiating pain.
  • Gallbladder issues like stones or inflammation on the right side, causing left shoulder and back pain.

Report persistent left upper back rib pain to your doctor to check for underlying causes requiring treatment.

What could cause right side upper back pain during pregnancy?

Some common reasons for right-sided upper back pain during pregnancy include:

  • Improper posture like leaning or sleeping more on the right side
  • Expanding rib cage putting pressure on the ribs and nerves
  • Gallbladder pain, inflammation or stones radiating from the right upper abdomen
  • Gas pain or constipation causing referred pain in the right shoulder and back
  • Overuse from carrying bags or baby more on the right side
  • Bra strap or prenatal belt irritation on the right side
  • Mattress or car seat not supporting the right side properly

While usually benign, be sure to mention persistent or worsening right upper back pain to your doctor to rule out preeclampsia or other complications. Strengthening the back muscles, massage, and proper support can often minimize right-sided upper back discomfort.

Can upper back pain be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancy, when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, usually causes one-sided low abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding in the first trimester. However, right or left upper back pain can also occur with an ectopic pregnancy when blood leaks from the fallopian tube into the abdomen and irritates the diaphragm. 

The diaphragm shares nerves with the upper back, causing referred shoulder and upper back pain. Seek immediate care if you have early pregnancy upper back pain along with abdominal pain and bleeding as this can indicate a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.

Could upper back pain mean I’m pregnant?

Mild upper back pain and discomfort alone is not a definitive sign of pregnancy. However, if you experience tender breasts, fatigue, nausea and upper back pain before your period, it could indicate pregnancy. 

The hormone progesterone rises early in pregnancy, which can cause upper back stiffness and pain due to loosening ligaments and joints. Upper back pain along with other early pregnancy symptoms warrants taking a sensitive home pregnancy test or seeing your doctor for evaluation.

We’re Here to Support You

We know back pain during pregnancy can be daunting. But Kaly can guide you to make the journey much smoother. Feel empowered to take control of your pain management. And know that we’re always here if you need guidance for achieving back comfort at this special time.

You’ve got this, mama! And we’ve got your back. Reach out anytime.