Back pain during pregnancy is a very common problem. Three out of four pregnant women experience some degree of back pain. For some women, symptoms may begin in the first trimester and last throughout pregnancy. Back pain during pregnancy is rarely caused by pinched nerves, and most often related to other factors like: changes in body positioning, hormones causing relaxation of connective tissues in the body, poor posture or body mechanics, and muscle fatigue. For some who have had pre-existing back pain, pregnancy may exacerbate it.
So, how do you relieve and manage back pain during pregnancy? Beyond the great aerobic exercises of walking, swimming, and cycling, there are 4 conditioning exercises anyone can do listed below. These types of exercises increase muscle tone and strength, improve endurance, and decrease fatigue. Swimming and water aerobics are also excellent exercises for pregnant women.
Here are some common conditioning exercises we give in the clinic to pregnant women to manage low back pain.
1) On your hands and knees, alternate lifting arms up with a progression of opposite arm and leg
2) Wall sit with a ball: First find neutral spine then lean back against a ball and sit down and come back up for 12 repetitions. Focus on breathing and having a neutral spine. Avoid arching your back.
3) Sitting on floor with legs crossed. Lean back until you feel your stomach muscles work and then slowly come forward. 12 repetitions
4) Plank (more advanced): Bring hands onto floor and lift trunk up making your body a straight “plank”. Maintain a straight neutral spine and try and hold for 30 seconds.
See the YouTube video of the exercises list above:
Beyond daily exercise, frequent position changes throughout the day, as well as stretching, sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs, using proper posture when sitting and standing, and proper body mechanics when lifting or performing household chores are also important in maintaining a healthy back. If you ever need to lift anything even moderately heavy, great care should be taken to use the larger muscles of the legs and arms rather than your back. It’s okay to ask for help.