Back-pain in pregnancy – avoiding it and exercises to ease it

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The causes of back-pain in pregnancy

During pregnancy, you release a hormone (relaxin) that affects the ligaments in your body causing them to become softer and stretch to prepare you for labor. Along with this change, the muscles in your body must adapt to a new center of gravity caused by your new bump that steadily is getting bigger. Your posture may also change for the worse. All these factors can put a strain on the joints of your lower back and pelvis, which can cause back-pain.  

Avoiding back-pain in pregnancy

There are several things you can do to help prevent back-pain from happening, and to help you cope with an aching back if it does occur.

The tips listed here can help you to protect your back – try to remember them every day: 

  • avoid lifting heavy objects
  • bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting or picking up something from the floor
  • move your feet when turning round to avoid twisting your spine
  • wear flat shoes as these allow your weight to be evenly distributed
  • work at a surface high enough to prevent you stooping
  • try to balance the weight between two bags when carrying shopping
  • sit with your back straight and well supported
  • make sure you get enough rest, particularly later in pregnancy
  • maintain a good exercise routine that keeps you generally fit and strong

Some people think a firm mattress can also help to prevent and relieve back-pain. If your mattress is too soft, put a piece of hardboard under it to make it firmer.

Massage can also help and gives you and dad the much needed opportunity to become intimate. We all need love and affection especially during pregnancy!

Exercises to ease backache in pregnancy

The gentle exercise below helps to strengthen stomach (abdominal) muscles and this can ease backache in pregnancy:

  • start in a box position (on all fours) with knees under hips, hands under shoulders, with fingers facing forwards and abdominals lifted to keep your back straight
  • pull in your stomach muscles and raise your back up towards the ceiling, curling your trunk and allowing your head to relax gently forward – don’t let your elbows lock
  • hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the box position
  • take care not to hollow your back – it should always return to a straight, neutral position
  • do this slowly and rhythmically 10 times, making your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully
  • only move your back as far as you can comfortably

Some people claim that exercising in water, massage therapy, and group or individual back care classes might help to ease back-pain in pregnancy.

Your local swimming pool might provide aqua-natal classes (gentle exercise classes in water, especially for pregnant women) with qualified instructors. Ask at your local leisure centre. Being in water will support your increasing weight.

Yoga and Pilates may also help as will generally keeping fit.

When to get help for backache in pregnancy

If your back causes you high levels of pain, ask your doctor to refer you to an obstetric physiotherapist. They can give you advice and may suggest some helpful exercises to improve your posture and strengthen muscles.

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