Does Exercise Prevent the Low Back Pain Associated with Pregnancy?


Spine Community News: Lumbar spine and pelvic girdle (sacroiliac joint) pain is the most common musculoskeletal complaint in pregnancy.1 Over 50% of pregnant women have low back or pelvic girdle pain that may be rated as moderate to severe. Post-partum back pain decreases by 50% or more.2 Pregnancy can be associated with absence from work related to back pain...

Exercise is known to help individuals with low back pain and may be able to prevent it. Could exercise be able to prevent back and pelvic girdle pain associated with pregnancy? According to a recent meta-analysis doctors have demonstrated that exercise can reduce the risk of pregnancy associated back pain.3 In eleven clinical trials (2347 pregnant women), exercise decreased the risk by 10 %. No protective effect could be demonstrated for pelvic pain. Sick leave was reduced by about 20 %.

A variety of exercises were shown to be helpful. Water gymnastics, pelvic tilts, and core strengthening were helpful. Also the combination of at least 3 of aerobic, strengthening, stretching, and relaxation, flexibility and endurance, resistance exercises, pelvic floor muscle training or balance exercises were effective. The duration of exercises was between 8 to 24 weeks

Light to moderate exercise is safe for the mother and baby. Exercise also has beneficial effects that prevent excessive maternal and fetal weight gain, prevents and controls gestational diabetes and improves cardiorespiratory fitness.

There is never a bad time to start exercising and pregnancy is no exception. Although the specific benefit for low back pain may be small, overall benefits of exercise for mother and baby are worth the effort.

David Borenstein, MD
Executive Editor


  1. Wu WH et al: Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PPP).I: Terminology, cinical presentation, and prevalence. Eur Spine J 2004;13:575-589
  2. Vermani E et al. Pelvic girdle pain and low back pain in pregnancy: A review. Pain Pract 2010;10:60-71
  3. Shiri R et al. Exercise for the prevention of low back and pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Pain 2018;22:19-27

Understanding Back Pain