Pregnancy can put your back through the wringer. Extra weight and changes in posture can tax the vertebrae -- the bones that make up the spine -- and the disks, which are the gel-filled cushions between the vertebrae that act as shock absorbers. Injuries or sudden movements can cause a disk to bulge out between the bones. This is called a herniated disk; it's also referred to as a slipped disk. If the disk presses on a nerve, it can cause mild, moderate, or severe pain down the front, back, or side of one leg, sometimes accompanied by numbness or tingling.
If you herniate a disk, take acetaminophen. If the pain is very bad, your doctor might prescribe a stronger painkiller. Herniated disks may fix themselves over the course of a few weeks, usually with a combination of rest and pain relievers initially. When the pain first strikes, experiment with lying and standing positions to see what brings relief. If those don't work, try bed rest. Some people find relief from disk pain by doing a yoga pose called the cat or camel stretch. Do this stretch only with your doctor's OK. Working with a physical therapist can help improve your posture and strengthen the muscles that support the back. This may prevent the disk from herniating again in the future.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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