How much does back pain affect women during pregnancy? Probably more than you think.
The American Pregnancy Association says that 50% to 70% of all women report experiencing having back pain during pregnancy. Additionally, the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association says 20% of women “refrained from having another child because of fear the back pain would recur in another pregnancy.”
With these statistics in mind, women going through a pregnancy will ensure a much more pleasant experience by incorporating some relatively simple stretches each day.
Pregnancy’s Effect on the Body
During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes a number of significant changes, including an enlarged uterus, changing center of gravity, and increased production of a hormone called relaxin. This causes ligaments, the fibrous tissue that connects bone to bone or cartilage, to stretch, making joints less stable.
Add a 25- to 35-pound weight gain as the baby grows, and the postural strain, aches, and pains in the back, abdomen, and hips can be a real source of discomfort.
Relieving Back Pain During Pregnancy
Pregnant women benefit from a combination of gentle joint mobilization, prenatal massage therapy and range-of-motion base therapeutic exercises. This combination provides relief from the additional joint stress and strengthening of the weaker muscles in order to support movement throughout a woman’s pregnancy.
According to Spine-Health.com, “gentle stretching and movement will often decrease muscle spasm and restore spinal function, which helps decrease pain.”
If you’re in the first or second trimesters of your pregnancy, you can try these four stretches to relieve back pain. Consult a physician or contact ProACTIVE for more stretches tailored to your specific needs.
1. Increase Flexibility and Range of Motion
If you’ve done yoga, you’re probably very familiar with the Cat/Cow stretch. It’s a general stretching technique that increases flexibility and range-of-motion in the entire spine, from neck to sacrum, by moving between flexion and extension end-ranges and activating reciprocal muscles consecutively.
This stretch strengthens and lengthens the spine and neck, improves posture, helps to open your chest, and stretches the hip, abdomen and back. According to Dr. Jared, “Good flexibility with balanced strength is the key to strong posture and a pain-free pregnancy”
The stretch: Begin on the floor on your hands and knees.
As you start to inhale, raise the head and look toward the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds.
Drop the belly toward the floor and arch your lower back. Next, start to exhale and bring your chin to your chest and round your spine. Hold for a few seconds and repeat the series 10 times.
2. Stretch the Hip Flexor
During pregnancy, the hip flexors—a group of muscles that flex the upper leg and knee toward the pelvis—can become tight, which causes pain and discomfort in the low back. Sitting for long periods or extensive walking and jogging, can tighten these muscles further.
This hip flexor lunge stretch is a great way to lengthen these muscles and take the pressure off your low back.
The stretch: Place your left knee on the floor on a pad or folded towel to reduce the pressure. Lunge your right leg in front with your foot flat on the floor.
Place both hands on your right thigh and shift your weight forward, pressing your hips forward. Hold the position for a minimum of 5 seconds. Repeat on the right, and perform 10 repetitions for each side.
3. Seated Hamstring Stretch
Tight hamstrings play a major role in pelvic dysfunction and low back pain, leading to limited mobility and discomfort. Keep these important muscles loose, and your back will thank you!
The stretch: Sit with your back flat against a wall and your legs straight out in front of you. Place your hands on the floor beside your hips. If you’re further along in your pregnancy, open your legs to hip width to make room for your belly.
Lean your upper body forward and scoot your hips back as close to the wall as possible, and then sit up straight.
You should feel this stretch in the back of the legs. To intensify the stretch, pull your toes back toward you for a more intense stretch. Hold for 1-2 minutes.
4. Seated Hip Stretches
Your hips work hard for you all the time, so be good to them with these three stretches that you can do right at your desk or sitting on a chair or bench. They will help keep the muscles that stabilize your hips while walking and standing from becoming tight and uncomfortable.
The stretches: Begin seated, placing your left ankle on your right knee, and sit up tall through the chest. Place your left hand on your left knee, and press it to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds.
Now, when you have finished the first position, place your left elbow onto your left knee and lean forward so that your weight pushes your knee down toward the floor and hold for 30 seconds.
Lastly, cross your left leg over your right, clasp your hands around your left knee and pull it toward the center of your chest. Sit up tall and tilt your pelvis forward. Hold for 30 seconds.
Pregnancy can be a difficult time, physically, in a woman’s life, but a little smart stretching can help ease discomfort and keep you active. If you have some additional pregnancy stretches, exercises, or tips that make you feel your best, please share them with us!