Back pain is very common in pregnancy with up to 50% of women experiencing discomfort. The hormones released during pregnancy cause a softening of the back and pelvic ligaments. This is compounded by the ever-increasing size and weight of your growing baby and the loss of core muscle support as the abdominal muscles are stretched. This results in a shift in your center of gravity and the end result is a lot of extra pressure and strain on the spine.
There are a number of ways to minimize (or better yet, prevent) low back pain in pregnancy. The most important thing is maintaining good postural habits. As your pregnancy progresses and your body shape changes, it is very important to try and keep in good postural alignment to minimize the strain from the extra load going through your joints.
No slouching!!When you are sitting, get into the habit of having a small cushion behind your lower back to support the natural curves of the spine and sit as far back into the chair as is comfortable. Try and keep your hips a little higher than your knees – use a small foot stool if needed. Get up regularly if sitting long periods - give yourself and baby space to move!
Pillows are your friends!
Side sleeping is advocated as the best position to sleep in during pregnancy - especially in your third trimester. Try lying on your side using your pregnancy pillows to add extra support where it is now needed. Use a firm but comfortable pillow for your head and place another pillow between your knees and ankles to help keep your pelvis stacked and minimize strain on the pelvic ligaments. Place a small pillow under your stomach to relieve any tension or strain on your pelvis and back from the weight of the bump. Some pregnant women find full-length body pillows provides the best relief.
Maintain gentle exercise
Regular gentle exercise is a great way to stay in shape and keep those postural muscles that support your back in good shape. Short but regular walks, even ten minutes, are a simple way to incorporate exercise and time for yourself into your daily schedule. Keep up those good postural habits here too. Imagine a string going from the top of your head to the sky, the back of your neck getting longer. Avoid carrying a bag while you are out for a walk or if necessary, carry one across your body, or use a back pack. Keep your arms down by your side and let them gently swing as you walk. This will help mobilise the spine and encourage nice deep breaths.
Swimming can be a great exercise too, with the water alleviating the extra load the body is carrying. Do take care getting in and out of the pool!
Join a pregnancy safe pilates or yoga class to specifically target strengthening your postural muscles
Other tips include...
- Sometimes applying a mild heat pad, or alternating between ice packs and heat can give some relief. Having someone gently rub your back or having a massage therapist do pregnancy massage may also help. Any massage you receive in pregnancy should be gentle and not painful – if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it!
- Use a good maternity support belt. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, these thick elastic bands are worn under the bump and around the hips to support your lower back and pelvis.
- Don’t be a hero when it comes to lifting, as your body changes lifting may strain vulnerable joints and muscles. Squat and lift with your legs when lifting small objects. Do not bend at your waist or lift with your back muscles. Don’t hold your breath when you are lifting. Do not try to lift heavy objects. Ask for help if you need it.
Remember pain is NOT a normal part of pregnancy. If you are experiencing pain talk to your LMC and seek help from Women’s health physiotherapist for some treatment to relive your symptoms and advice on ways to minimize your discomfort, so you can get on with enjoying your pregnancy!
This blog post was written by Rebecca Dodson and Stacey Law from Leto Women's Health.
Leaders in women’s health, Rebecca Dodson and Stacey Law both trained over 15 years ago as musculoskeletal and sports physios before their passion for working with women led them to specialise in pelvic floor physiotherapy, pre and post-natal exercise, clinical pilates and acupuncture.
Rebecca and Stacey believe that they can make the most impactful difference to lives by both educating clients about their bodies as well as giving them the tools for how to get the most out of them. They bring this approach to all the clients they work with; formulating a tailored assessment and personalised plan that takes the individual into account. They also advocate using exercise as part of the treatment (where appropriate) as that allows them to see how a woman’s bodies responds when her muscles are engaged, and how to best correct any issues that may arise from that.
If you are in Auckland, you can book in to see Becs or Stacey here.