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Beat pregnancy back pain

Take the pressure off your back and feel better before the birth.


Posted: 13 August 2009
by Laura Lee Davies

When you become pregnant, it’s not just the extra weight you’re carrying around (or even the fact that you are contorting the way you move to compensate for your growing bump) which can cause back pain. In order to allow parts of your body like your rib cage to expand, your ligaments loosen up. This in itself can mean you are getting less support.
Keeping fit will always help you deal with new physical pressures, but you must not overdo exercise. Here are some of the best options to counter the backache:

  • Sit up straight: I know your teacher used to nag you, but the changes to your body mean that slouching can really take its toll now.
  • Wear flat shoes: Your natural pregnancy bloom will have to compensate for those sexy red heels for now. Even before your bump destabilises you, the heels must go. Don’t rush around, but walk surely and keep an eye on not tilting back too much. Concentrate on centralising the weight going down to your feet and after a while you will find it more instinctive.
  • Swimming: Unless your doctor has advised against it, swimming is one of the most kind exercises you can do. It helps strengthen muscles to take pressure off your back and shoulders, but it carries your weight at the same time.
  • Yoga: If you are already a yoga devotee, let your instructor know you are pregnant and she can advise if there are any positions you should stop doing or adjust. If you aren’t used to yoga, try antenatal yoga classes, which aren’t too strenuous and usually have the added benefit of ensuring you get a bit of peaceful ‘me’ time to concentrate on you and your baby. You will find the fellowship of other expectant mothers a great support too. If you don't want to go to a class, try our advice from a yoga expert.
    Antenatal yoga can also offer some great ideas for relieving labour pains and also encourages meditation – a useful distraction in the early stages of labour!
  • Pilates: This concentrates on building up the strength from the inside out so your back is properly supported by your ‘core muscles’. It also uses the pelvic floor muscles so you will find many of the exercises (developed by Joseph Pilates for general health and well being after the First World War) suit toning your body for birth and for support afterwards.
    Whether you do ‘mat’ or ‘machine’ pilates, make sure your instructor knows you are pregnant. A good leader will make sure you get plenty of valuable exercise without putting too much strain on your system.
    Some of the exercises an ante-natal class might suggest are very similar to pilates movements.
  • Relaxing and sleeping with good support: If you have a huge comfy sofa, make sure you are not slouching too much. If you used to sit at the back of a deep sofa with your legs crossed, put an extra cushion behind you so your feet can touch the floor when lounging for longer periods of time.
    When you sleep, think about the kinds of positions you find comfortable. It is best if you sleep on your side. The size of your tummy will pull your body into a twisted position so sleep with a pillow underneath the raised knee to straighten your pelvis. It might seem strange at first but after a while it will come naturally.
  • Pain relief: There are no strong, over-the-counter pain killers you can take in pregnancy so if you need greater pain relief than taking a warm (NOT very hot) bath, then consult your doctor first.

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    Discuss this story

    I am sure loads of people suffer with bad backs during pregnacy, can anyone suggest any good remedies? I have have a dodgy back for years and now at six months i can hardly stand for more than about half an hour. I am due to go back to work next week for another eight weeks yet and cant see how I am going to get through. I tried a 'bump support' but it did no good. Any advice would be fantastic.

    Posted: 28/12/2005 at 19:23

    I used to have a bad back and dreaed being pregnant because I thought my back would get worse. Funnily enough, I think those hormones that relax everything in prep for the birth really helped me. But if you're suffering now, you really don't want to be dreading getting bigger.
    Some pilates would probably help, but you need to ask someone who knows what you can and can't do when you're pregnant. Pilates is great because it's about small movements and strengthening from the inside rather than working your muscles up through heavy weights etc.
    My pilates teacher has had a child herself. I'll ask her when I go to my session at the weekend - she gives me small exercises to do, but they might be specific to my own condition.
    Hope the pain's eased off! I used to find relaxing the muscles with a hot water bottle or a long bath were the best solutions.

    Posted: 30/12/2005 at 15:41

    I find that lying on the bedroom floor, pulling up my pelvic floor muscles and titling my tummy downwards - so that my back flattens against the floor - really helps. Does that make sense? I'm not a fitness expert so I'm sure there's a better way of explaining it!
    If I do it a few times in the morning and evening, when I'm feeling tired, it really helps.

    Posted: 03/01/2006 at 10:34

    Thanks for the advice I will try that. Work is not going well, and they just moved me to light duties which actually involves so much more walking and lifting. Really want to finish work earlier now, I don't think I can go on for another eight weeks.

    Posted: 05/01/2006 at 14:19

    Although women never like to make a fuss about the fact they are pregnant, you do have employment law on your side if you are not doing duties which suit your pregnancy. Obviously you don't want to have a formal confrontation if you can help it, but it really might be worth having a quiet word with someone who can help change your working situation. Do you have someone you feel you can talk to at work, about this?
    It really isn't great if you are feeling the strain and it would be a shame if you either had to leave work early for health reasons or that you felt pressured into starting your maternity leave early for any reason, as you'll want to enjoy as much time as possibel after the baby is born.
    Let us know how you're getting on. Thinking of you. LLD

    Posted: 06/01/2006 at 11:42

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