Back pain during pregnancy is not uncommon, due to the weight gain and hormonal changes during pregnancy. While you may feel inclined to take painkillers or see a chiropractor, are these treatment methods really safe? Dr Jessie Phoon, Associate Consultant, KKIVF Centre, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group, shares more.

Are NSAIDs and painkillers safe for back pain during pregnancy?

“Pregnant women should never self-medicate,” says Dr Phoon. “Always consult a doctor before taking any medication for back pain during pregnancy.”

Painkillers such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are not recommended in pregnancy as they can harm the foetus and cause premature birth. Aspirin is an NSAID that can be used occasionally in the case of high-risk pregnancy, and for specific medical conditions, after consulting a doctor.

Paracetamol and opiate-based painkillers are relatively safe for pregnant women, but these should also only be used after consulting a doctor.

Can pregnant women use pain patches and topical gels for back pain treatment?

“Local treatment with patches or topical gels is generally safe as the absorption is very minimal. But they should be used as little as possible,” says Dr Phoon.

Are acupuncture and chiropractic treatment recommended for back pain during pregnancy?

“We have not done any studies on the effectiveness of alternative treatment for back pain during pregnancy,” says Dr Phoon.

When should you see a doctor?

Occasionally, severe back pain could be a sign of miscarriage or early labour.

“Severe back pain that does not resolve with any simple remedy should be seen by a doctor immediately,” says Dr Phoon.

Ref: R14