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Expert Q&A

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Can C-section anesthetic lead to low back pain?

Asked by Bindu, Mumbai, India

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It has been eight years since I have had my son through Caesarean section. During the last few days, I have been experiencing discomfort below my backbone right at the place where I got a shot for the Caesarean section. Is this a reason for concern, as I have not been able to sleep on my back for the last few days?

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

While lower back pain is very common, delayed pain from complications of epidural or spinal anesthesia is quite rare, especially after years without any problems. Nearly 1/3 of the 4 million infants born each year are delivered by Caesarean section and the majority of those deliveries involve pain medicine administered around or into the mother's spinal fluid to numb the body for the operation. If you include vaginal deliveries, more than half of all pregnant women receive this type of medication to reduce pain during labor and delivery.

The most common complications of epidural or spinal anesthesia occur during or shortly after the use of the catheter administering the medicine and include shivering, itching, lowered blood pressure, areas of numbness or tingling, temporary back pain and headaches.

Sudden lower back pain years after epidural or spinal anesthesia is more likely to be caused by a recent injury, heavy lifting, poor posture or positioning (such as during sleep or while carrying a backpack), or stress on the bones or muscles. Certain conditions of the spine or other parts of the body such as arthritis, scoliosis, ankylosing spondylitis, infections and tumors may also cause back pain.

Treatment depends on the cause of the pain and may involve pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, application of ice or heat, stretching, massage and rest. It's important to consult with your physician for any back pain that is severe or continues despite home treatment. Special imaging studies (such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI) or blood tests may be needed to diagnose the condition.

For more information on back pain, visit the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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