Background: Low back pain with onset during pregnancy is common and approximately one out of three women have disabling pain. The pathogenesis of the pain condition is uncertain and there is no information on the role of physical fitness. Whether poorer physical conditioning is a cause or effect of back pain is also disputed and information from prospective studies needed.
Methods: A cohort of pregnant women, recruited from maternal health care centers in central Sweden, were examined regarding estimated peak oxygen uptake by cycle ergometer test in early pregnancy, reported physical activity prior to pregnancy, basic characteristics, back pain during pregnancy and back pain postpartum.
Results: Back pain during the current pregnancy was reported by nearly 80% of the women. At the postpartum appointment this prevalence was 40%. No association was displayed between estimated peak oxygen uptake and incidence of back pain during and after pregnancy, adjusted for physical activity, back pain before present pregnancy, previous deliveries, age and weight. A significant inverse association was found between estimated peak oxygen uptake and back pain intensity during pregnancy and a direct association post partum, in a fully adjusted multiple linear regression analysis.
Conclusions: Estimated peak oxygen uptake and reported physical activity in early pregnancy displayed no influence on the onset of subsequent back pain during or after pregnancy, where the time sequence support the hypothesis that poorer physical deconditioning is not a cause but a consequence of the back pain condition. The mechanism for the attenuating effect of increased oxygen uptake on back pain intensity is uncertain.