Lower and upper back pain occurs in 60-70% of pregnancies. We always encourage patients to start an exercise program well before they are pregnant as prevention is the key! That said, it’s never too late to start with some gentle exercises for all women who are pregnant without complications.
Why is the spine vulnerable during pregnancy?
1) Hormone production during pregnancy makes joints less stable (to allow the pelvis to spread as the baby grows)
2) Typical weight gain of 10-16kg during pregnancy with the majority distributed around the abdomen
3) Increase in postural strain as the body compensates for changes in the pregnant woman's center of gravity and anterior pelvic tilt
What exercise is safe during pregnancy?
1) Cardiovascular exercise - Any activity that increases the body's heart rate for a sustained period of time is considered cardiovascular exercise. Walking, biking, low impact aerobics and swimming are all considered safe for most pregnant women and can be performed for 20 to 45 minutes, 3 to 5 days a week. Pregnant women should take care to exercise at a mild to moderate level, but not to the point of exhaustion or overheating.
2) Strengthening exercise - Strengthening the abdominal muscles, back muscles, pelvic floor, buttock, and thigh muscles can effectively help prevent and decrease back pain. It is recommended that the strengthening exercises be performed in a slow and controlled manner. This includes light hand weights, pilates and exercises such as squats, lunges, bridging etc.
3) Stretches - Although there are many stretches that can safely be performed during pregnancy, the muscles that most often contribute to back pain are the hamstrings, hip flexors, gluteals and erector spinae muscles.
A physiotherapist can devise a specialised exercise program tailored to your needs and the stage of your pregnancy. We can also provide soft tissue massage, spinal mobilisation, postural taping, posture education and pregnancy support prescription to help with pain relief.