Eighty percent of women will experience back pain at some point during their pregnancies. Although it may seem enticing to rest when experiencing pain and not undertake an exercise routine, gentle stretching and movement will often decrease muscle spasms and restore improved spinal function, resulting in decreased pain.
An activity that increases the body's heart rate for a sustained period of time is considered cardiovscular exercise. Walking, biking and swimming are all considered safe for most pregnant women and can be performed for 20 to 45 minutes, 3 t0 5 days a week. Pregnant women should exercise from a mild to moderate level, never to a point of exhaustion. Keep in mind that any exercise, even a 10 minute walk, is better than none.
The components of a balanced exercise program during pregnancy also include strengthening exercises. These exercises and stretchesm combined with mild to moderate cardiovascular activity, will help boost your energy levels and contributes to an easier labor, delivery, and post partum recovery.
*Breathe out during the exertion phase of the exercise and inhale as you relax.
This exercise is great for strengthening your lower back, pelvic, and abdominal muscles.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet relaxed on the floor.
- Tighten your abdominal and buttock muscles while flattening the lower part of your spine against the floor, so that you feel no space between your back and the floor.
- Lift your pelvic slightly and hold for 10 seconds then relax.
- Gradually increase the number of tilts you do each day to your comfort level.
NOTE: Do not perform this exercise laying down after 4 months, because it can cause blood circulation problems for you and your fetus. After 4 months, you can perform this exercise standing against a wall, on your hands and knees, or sitting.
ARM AND LEG REACH
- Kneel on your hands and knees with a straight spine.
- Do a pelvic tilt to keep your pelvis stable.
- Lift your right arm and left leg to form a straight line with your spine.
- Pause in this position and then slowly lower your arm and leg.
- Alternate lifting the opposite arm and leg, repeat exercise 10 to 30 times.
To exercise the pelvic floor muscles, try to envision pulling muscles of the vaginal area up and in towards your baby. You should not feel your buttocks, thighs, or abdominals tightening as you do this. This exercise can be done anytime during the day.
- Squeeze and hold those same vaginal muscles for 10 seconds and then slowly release.
- Squeeze again and release quickly.
- Do 20 10-second holds 5 times a day.
Want to know if your doing it right? Next time you use the restroom, try to do a kegel squeeze. If you do it correctly, you should be able to stop your urine flow. At first, you will slowly begin to stop it; this will improve with time.
- Stand with your head, shoulders, and back against a wall with your feet about 1 to 2 feet away from the wall.
- Press your lower back into the wall (basic pelvic tilt).
- Squat down as if you were going to sit down, with your knees approaching a 90-degree angle.
- Come back up slowly, keeping your back and buttocks in contact with the wall.
- Do 10 to 30 repetitions of this exercise.
TIP: DO NOT push your body weight against the wall while slidding up and down. Keep your back touching but without adding any force. This will help you slide up and down smoothly and gives you a better workout.
CHILDS POSE (BACK STRETCH)
- Start on your hands and knees, with your legs wide apart and hands place forward just alittle in front of your head.
- Place a small pillow under you to give support to your abdomen (if needed).
- Sit back on your knees and stretch your arms forward to feel a stretch along the spine.
- Hold stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat 2 to 5 times.
The hamstring is a very important muscle in our bodies. Tight hamstrings can cause the hips and pelvis to rotate back flattening the lower back and causing back problems. Tight hamstrings can also be responsible for postural problems and other back problems such as joint pain and chronic lower back pain, as they will tend to pull the pelvis out of normal position. Follow these steps to help release the hamstring muscle.
- Face a chair and place one foot up on it, keeping both hips and feet facing forward.
- Keep your back straight and lean from your hips to feel a stretch in the back of the thigh.
- If you can't stand tall or your knee bends, try a lower step.
- Hold position for 10 seconds, then release by lifting your torso upright. Repeat stretch 2 to 5 more times remembering to hold for 10 seconds each time.
NOTE: You should never try to stretch your hamstring by bringing it above hip level as you may pull a muscle.
- Stand with your head upright and with your back straight. Clasp your hands behind your back without leaning your shoulders forward.
- Gently stretch your arms up and back to feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders and arms.
- Do 2 to 5 sets of this stretch remembering to keep your back straight.
- Sitting or standing, bring your head forward and tip it to one side.
- With the hand on the same side as your head is tipped, reach up behind your head and give a gentle pull.
- Turning your head as you pull can help isolate the specific neck muscles needing stretching.
- You can also lift your opposite arm to shoulder level. This gives you a different stretch than keeping your arm down.
- Hold stretch for 10 seconds each side (5 seconds with arm at shoulder level and 5 seconds with arm down by your side). Alternate sides and repeat one more time.
Due to the multitude of changes happening within the body, back pain during pregnancy tends to be a common complaint, and exercise is a simple yet effective way to achieve comfort and relief during this exciting time.