Relieve Pregnancy Back Pain With These 5 Tips From an RMT

Photograph by Haley Lorriane

Guest post from: Krisitin Richards, Vancouver RMT

A recent study suggests 73% pregnancies will begin and end with a debilitating pregnancy back pain and pelvic pain. This pain can even continue post pregnancy. As a Registered Massage Therapist in Vancouver, I have seen my share (and experienced my own) pregnancy back pain. It isn’t fun!

First of all, I want to acknowledge that physiologically, pregnancy should not be considered a handicap. It is a natural, beautiful and extraordinary process that our body is designed for. That being said, most of our spinal problems including pregnancy back pain, are a result of our sedentary lifestyle in our modern world. When we experience pain in our body it is 100% an output from our brain; a defense mechanism telling us to protect an area of the body. So if you are suffering from acute or sudden back pain, please rest and speak to your Midwife or Doctor if your condition doesn’t improve.

However, if you are suffering from lower back pain that has been on & off through your pregnancy, there are ways to find relief and prevent further problems.

1.Good Postural Alignment

What I’m not saying is “stand up straight”! Your spine has natural and very important curves that are necessary and are there to support your body. By tucking your pelvis or flattening your spine in any way you are setting yourself up for other issues and compensating problems or pain. Your body is doing a lot, you could be carrying an extra thirty pounds by the end of your pregnancy! To maintain your correct postural alignment during pregnancy, a lot is is working against you. Extra mindfulness of your posture while sitting, standing and walking can make a huge difference in reducing your pregnancy back pain.

How to prevent pregnancy back pain with good posture:

  • Keep your head held up at chin level. Your back and shoulders will naturally fall into place.
  • Drop your shoulders by relaxing them into a natural position. Throwing your shoulder blades back could strain your lower back muscles.
  • Don’t tense or exaggerate the lumbar curve in your lower back. By assuming a swayback position, you may cause backache.
  • Relax and slightly bend your knees but avoid locking them.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Avoid wearing high heels as these tend to thrust your pelvis forward. Positive heeled shoes help bring your weight back evenly over your heels.
  • Avoid slouching and crossing your legs while sitting, keep your lower back well supported.

2. Walk

Exercise and movement cannot be understated during pregnancy. Movement allows your joints, muscles and fascia to maintain their range of motion and function. When we stop moving, our body and our tissues begin to tighten and restrict movement and over time this can cause us to experience pain. Ideally begin walking before your pregnancy however if you are just starting to walk as prenatal exercise, begin with 1km daily (with supportive walking shoes) and gently increase by 1 km every 2-3 weeks until you have reached 8 km. If you need to, you can spread the distance out over the course of your day. Careful of any habits where your toes point out causing a ‘waddle’ gait/walk, this can lead to eventual problems in the hips and lower back. Be sure your toes are pointing straight ahead.

3. Stretch to relieve pregnancy back pain:

Try Head-on-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana) which relieves one-sided low-back pain and is helpful for sciatica during pregnancy.

  • Sit with buttocks elevated on blanket or block-as high as necessary to keep spine vertical under your sitting bones. Make sure blanket or block is not under thighs.
  • Gently fold right knee to side at 90 degrees; right heel should touch right groin.
  • Toss loop of strap around sole of left foot; keep arms straight and chest lifted.
  • Extend sole of left foot forward while contracting front of thigh.
  • Pressing off both sitting bones equally, extend spine vertically.
  • Rotate right thigh externally (outwards) while torso faces left leg evenly.
  • Hold for10 deep breaths.
  • To release, gently let go of strap, extend right leg forward.
  • Repeat on opposite side.
  • Repeat stretch daily.

 4. Squat!

That’s right…. Something we learned as toddlers and did all the time, but as we get older instead we sit in chairs or bend at the waist. Squatting has so many benefits,  but most importantly it stretches out your lower back which helps relieve any pain in that area.

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart
  • Inhale deeply
  • Exhale, and squat down, lowering your buttocks to the floor
  • As you reach your maximum squat, place your hands on the floor in front of you
  • Inhale, and press your hands into the floor as you raise your buttocks and sweep your arms out to the sides (like angel wings)
  • Challenge yourself to squat a little deeper each time, but make sure you stay comfortable and your both your feet remain firmly planted on the floor
  • Always press your hands into the floor to come up to standing from the squat position; don’t just come up with your legs because that puts too much pressure on the uterus.
  • If your heels come up off the floor when you squat, double up a blanket or towel and place it beneath your heels

5.  Sleep with plenty of pillow support

Many of my pregnancy clients who are coming to me with pregnancy back pain are not supporting their bodies while sleeping. And we spend over 2,000 hours during pregnancy sleeping! You need at least 6 pillows when you are sleeping on your side. Place the first 2 pillows for your head, 3rd pillow under your ribs/belly to support your growing uterus, 4th and 5th pillows under your top knee while your bottom leg is straight, the 6th pillow is there for your top arm to cuddle into your chest and support your top arm. It’s important to keep your top knee on pillows that are high enough to ensure your hips aren’t leaning or twisting forward. To watch a video on pillowing for pregnancy back pain click here.

And of course you can always see a qualified Registered Massage Therapist for a prenatal pregnancy massage.

Guest Post by Kristin Richards, RMT in Vancouver, BC.

—–Kristin became a mother to a baby boy last year and practices massage therapy at the Broadway Wellness Clinic in Vancouver, BC. I have personally seen Kristin at this clinic for massage, and highly recommend her if you are experiencing pregnancy back pain or need a prenatal massage for other reasons! There are many resources available to pregnant women in Vancouver to help them manage  problems that may come up during pregnancy. For other practitioners and approaches, visit the Alternative Health For Pregnancy section of our blog.

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  1 comment for “Relieve Pregnancy Back Pain With These 5 Tips From an RMT

  1. Julie-Anne
    February 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Great article! I might add that I usually recommend against placing pillows under your growing belly when you are resting on your side. The reason for this is that it can encourage your baby to settle into a posterior position. For more on this, you can check out Gail Tully’s work at spinningbabies.com under “Rest Smart”. ~Julie-Anne

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