Out of all the aches and pains during pregnancy, lower back pain can be especially cruel. Moms complain that it hits them out of the blue while bending over to pick up their other child, or when lifting a briefcase at work. It may be reassuring to know that low back pain (LBP) is common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
“Hormonal changes cause ligamentous laxity in the joints, combined with the weight of the growing baby altering the center of gravity for a woman. This adds strain to the low back muscles and ligaments as they work to counter-balance the added frontal weight,” explains Meredith Soelberg, MPT, MBA, a Los Angeles–based physical therapist and co-founder of MyBlankHurts.
Just because LBP is common, it doesn’t have to be endured throughout pregnancy. Soelberg assures that there are ways to avoid, or alleviate back pain, by utilizing the right posture and body mechanics, combined with an appropriate exercise program.
Soelberg outlined tips for posture and body mechanics:
- Sitting posture: Do not slump into chairs or sit with crossed legs. These positions strain the low back and pelvis. Instead, sit straight up, trying to maintain the curvature of the low back. You can place a towel roll in the small of the back in order to maintain the curvature of the spine and relieve low back strain when sitting.
- Lifting: When lifting objects from the floor or from any lower surface, approach the object square-on: bend as if you are about to sit into a chair, bending the knees and hips while keeping the chest lifted. Be sure to keep the object close to the body and to not hold your breath. (Do not lift heavy objects). Avoid twisting your trunk when lifting objects (such as small children out of cars, cribs, or strollers, or groceries from the car).
- Sleeping: Sleep on your left side to increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby. Placing a pillow or two between the knees while side-sleeping will help to keep the spine and pelvis in more normal alignment and help to relieve strain to these areas when resting.
Find the Right Exercise Program
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) recommends a complete exercise program that includes flexibility, low-impact aerobics, muscle strengthening, endurance, and relaxation exercises, says Soelberg.
“Key muscle groups targeted during prenatal exercise include the postural muscles (along the spine and between the shoulder blades); the abdominal muscles and illopsoas (the deep muscle in front of the pelvis and spine); and the pelvic floor muscles (the layer of muscles deep within the pelvis that is a base of support for the pelvic organs). Low impact aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, and stationary biking along with light weight lifting with the arms and legs are recommended,” she explains.
It is recommended to consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you haven’t exercised much before pregnancy, or if your back pain is not getting better after following proper posture and body mechanics. For a fully outlined exercise program to strengthen and stabalize the core muscles during and after pregnancy, read Exercises to Strengthen the Lower Back.