No one can prepare you for how pregnancy feels and some of these new experiences are more preferable than others. One of the biggest impacts, and one we can't dismiss is the impact of pregnancy on our body, with back pain being a common struggle for new mums.
I'm Carla Pozna, Osteopath and resident at Portland Hospital. This subject is dear to me as it’s a condition I treat a lot in my clinic, as well as something I’ve experienced firsthand. And to be honest, I am still not sure what was easier, being in the clinic heavily pregnant treating body builders or running around after an energetic toddler.
So, what can we do to feel better in our evolving pregnant bodies? And what can we do to nurture ourselves and our baby whilst being forgiving and understanding, respecting and admiring what our body is creating? The answer is - increase our body awareness. The more awareness we gain about our changing bodies, the more we can help ourselves and the easier the pregnancy can become. Especially when it comes to eliminating back pain. Over the course of pregancy, as mother and baby grow, the pelvis will have more and more pressure placed upon it. It’s for this reason, that preventative care is key.
Main causes of back pain during pregnancy:
The anatomy of the female pelvis, which is uniquely designed for childbirth, can be imbalanced by the hormone - relaxin, often causing Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD). This is a wonderful hormone which helps prepare the body for birth by increasing laxity in the muscles and joints. It’s important to keep a strong core to counterbalance this increased mobility and prevent SPD or Pelvic Girdle Pain.
Diastasis Recti is another common condition which I treat in my clinic. As the uterus grows, abdominal muscles can separate causing problems in the lower back. Specific post-natal exercises can however help this to heal.
We also have to consider the strong link between emotional wellbeing and back pain. As mentioned, pregnancy can be a stressful period. One of the body’s stress responses is to tighten muscles, for example in the lower back. It is important to incorporate relaxation/meditation when you can.
As the baby grows, the lumbar spine (lower back) can be pulled forward forming a hyperlordosis (a forward tip). This changes the distribution of forces through the spine, causing lower back symptoms.
The good news is that, depending on the presentation and severity of complaints, most symptoms relating to lower back pain will disappear after the birth. In the meantime, here is how you can help yourself.
Try and avoid the following:
Lifting and pushing heavy loads
Carrying on one side
Staying in one position (sitting or standing) for long periods of time
Holding a twisted position
Best exercises to do at home relieve pain:
- It’s a good idea to have a consultation with a physical therapist.
- Be careful lying on your back after twenty weeks as this may affect blood supply to the baby.
- Only do what feels comfortable for you and your baby.
- For each exercise-5 gentle breaths inhale/exhale through the nose, repeat x 2/3
Flexion Over Chair
Squeeze the gluteus muscles away from the thumbs: individually x 15 and together x 10
Engage the pelvic floor by drawing in the deep muscles above your pubic bone up to the navel, squeeze x 5 seconds, repeat x 10
Sciatic Pain Stretch: always do both sides on this one
Rest and Restore Position
Other Top Tips:
- A pelvic brace can support the pelvis as baby grows and relaxin sets in
- Keep moving - swimming and walking are both great option during pregnancy
- Postural improvements- professional Pilates will help with this. Also being mindful to squat and engaging the pelvic floor instead of bending through the back whenever you're reaching down
- Pregnancy pillows are fantastic
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