4 Tips to Help Reduce Back Pain During Pregnancy

After consulting back pain experts, this yoga instructor discovered what worked for her. Here she shares her favorite stretches and exercises.

I came into my first pregnancy long and lean after years of teaching and practicing yoga. I discovered while navigating pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood how intense the weight gain was, particularly on my back, neck and hips. Between gaining the baby weight, losing the baby weight, hunching over to nurse and feed, and the repeat movements of lifting, swaying, and bathing a baby, I experienced discomfort I never expected I’d feel. Luckily, I got active again and found strength and momentum.
Woman in various stages of pregnancy, lastly holding her babyInto my second pregnancy, the discomfort came back, this time targeting my hips and once again, my neck and shoulders. I’m not going to lie; all the back pain made me feel pretty discouraged and unhappy.

As the second pregnancy progressed and my frustration with pain mounted, I realized that I was sick of feeling uncomfortable, that it was time to find a solution I could bring home and use every day. Since knowledge is key, I surrounded myself with skilled professionals, absorbed their know-how and brought many of their tips and tools into my daily life. The daily part is key, but more on that later.

To help reduce my back pain during my second pregnancy, I consulted with a team of experts to help me, and then used what made sense for my body.

Below are a few of the discoveries I made on how to alleviate back pain during pregnancy. These tips are from my background as a yoga instructor, and consultations with my chiropractor, massage therapist, and Pilates instructor during my pregnancies.

Tip #1. It’s imperative to strengthen the abdominals and glutes.
Often, when your back hurts during pregnancy, it’s because you are not utilizing the stronger muscle groups that help stabilize your body's frame. As you gain pregnancy weight, the discomfort may worsen.

When my Pilates instructor gave me deep core strengthening and glute exercises that I could do at home, I found the exercises immediately helped to alleviate my back discomfort. In many ways, the exercises reminded those muscle groups to wake up. So, instead of my back doing all the work, these muscles could take over when I needed them.

  • My favorites? Bridges with a good bum squeeze at the top and pelvic tilts that gently wake up the transverse abdominals.

Tip #2. Side-stretching helps the back to open.
Stretching the sides of your body opens space between the ribs. It not only helps to alleviate back discomfort, but can improve breathing. As your pregnancy advances, the middle region of your body may feel tighter. It’s one of the reasons why you may feel out of breath.

My massage therapist shared a body stretch that helps to open up the space between the ribs.

My favorite stretch can help open up the left and right sides of your body.

  • Sit cross-legged and reach both arms up toward the ceiling.
  • Move your right hand down and, with your left hand, reach over toward the right side of the room.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • The key is to reach up and over to improve breathing.
  • Hang out there and take deep luxurious breaths.

Tip #3. Place your legs up a wall.
As pregnancy progresses, your legs, knees and feet begin to feel the effects of greater body weight and pressure. Here is another favorite movement of mine— especially during pregnancy—that I discovered through my yoga practice.

This restorative yoga pose involves simply placing a yoga mat or blanket as a back cushion near a wall. Make sure it is level and smooth.

  • Lie on the floor with your bottom against the wall and allow your legs to climb straight up the wall.
  • Stretch your arms outward and turn your palms up.
  • Take deep breaths.

It feels so good to reverse the blood flow and give your joints a break. Hang out for a few minutes and enjoy. If the back of your legs feel like this is too much of a stretch, you can always bring the soles of your feet together and let the knees butterfly to the side.

Tip #4. Commit Daily.
It’s tough to make a personal commitment to doing daily stretches and exercises, especially as life becomes busier and busier. But making that daily commitment is key to make your home exercises effective.

It’s best to get into the habit now to make your personal self- and body-care a priority. Life with kids will attempt to take over—but you need to make your wellness number one. Living with back pain is no walk in the park—nurture that discomfort now so you can enjoy your pregnancy journey toward motherhood even more. Best of luck!

SpineUniverse Editorial Comment: Many women experience back pain during pregnancy. However, it should be understood that back and neck pain can be caused by other conditions or disorders. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about back or neck pain. Before starting an exercise program or other health care regimen, speak with your doctor or provider first.

Updated on: 09/22/17
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