I hope you are having a happy healthy new year and enjoying your pregnancy! It can be an amazing time of constant change in both your body and mind. One minute you think everything is smooth sailing and the next you have every terrible symptom you read about the night before in What to Expect When You’re Expecting! One of the common ailments is waking up sore from a night of restless sleep is due to back pain. Somewhere between second and third (some as early as first) trimesters you may feel an achy tightness spreading across mid-upper back and or lower back. For those who are already experiencing this or trying to avoid the sometimes unavoidable pregnancy back pain, my top 3 exercises and posture cures can help.
First I should mention a little about pregnancy posture. We all enter into pregnancy with a predisposition posturally speaking. This can be from dear old mom and dad, repeated computer hunching, hair blow-drying, even current mothering can create a forward leaning head and shoulders and a compressed lower back that can present in many different ways. Sometimes overly flat or over-arched. The bottom line is that often most of us are not addressing these issues until pregnant and in pain. Ouch, double whammy! So my advice, outside of getting in front of a trained professional for an evaluation and getting on a daily home program is the following:
1) Stretch your pecs: Yes those beautiful bodacious new friends of yours might just be part of why your mid-upper back and neck might be bothering you. The weight of the breasts pull down and lock tight creating a forward lean and can make it difficult to take deep breaths. You will need to stretch the pecs before strengthening your back to prevent a body tug of war between the two. TRY THIS: stand in a door way with your elbow in a goal post position (90 degrees) Stand in a lunge (meaning one foot forward and one back). As your pecs, which connect into your shoulder, begin to stretch, breathe deeply and slowly. Ideally you want to stay here for 5-8 breaths. Don’t over do it. More is not always better until you know your limits.
2) Stretch and loosen up your lower back: The typical pregnancy posture is a forward tilt of the pelvis to accommodate your growing baby and prepare for delivery. The muscles that run up and down close to the spine (para spinals and erector spinae muscles) as well as quadratus lumborum can get increasingly taught (whew what a mouthful!) but there is a lot going on there that can get cranky, which we want to avoid if possible. TRY THIS: Get into position on all fours with knees right under the hip bones and wrists under the shoulders. Begin to sway your hips in a curled under tuck and alternate with an arched position allowing your whole back to arch to a comfortable place. Add the exhalation breathe out when curling and rounding your back like a rainbow and an inhalation when you arch or sway your back. This feels sooooo good to most tight backs! Next try to “stabilize”, find the in-between place of neutral where you still maintain an arch but probably less than you think. We call this neutral in pilates fitness. Next pick up one knee and your opposite hand only high enough that you could slip a card under. Now hold the position and breathe for 5 breaths. Stay focused, weight forward on your hand and minimize swaying. Put your attention toward your pelvic floor and kegal to help connect with the low deep seat belt abs called the transverse abdominus or in layman’s terms, low deep abs. then release and relax by doing some arch curls 4 or 5 and then repeat on the other side.
3.) Pelvic floor stretching (ooohhhh, controversial!): We know we need to be strong here for obvious reasons – we need to hold and support a developing baby, push out a baby, recover so we can support our spine, internal organs, and not pee when we sneeze for the rest of our lives…TMI? No way. It’s the truth ladies. If you fail to put some conscious effort into being both strong in the pelvic floor region as well as “released” you might end up with some preventable issues lingering. TRY THIS: You will need an exercise ball. (the kind you sit on at your desk. If it is too big it will not be safe to use and I don’t recommend it.) Stand on the floor with the ball also on the floor. Place the ball in-between your ankles and inner thighs so that both your feet and the ball are on the floor. (straddle) You can do these in your kitchen and hold onto the side of the sink. Find that neutral position that is between a curl and arch. You will then squeeze your legs together while breathing out and hold for a minimum of three counts. This is where you focus on the pull up (kegal ) and the pull in(low deep abs) at the same time. Do 5-10 of these and finish with 3 rounds of releases. Inhale and then exhale and push out like you are trying to increase the flow of urine. This trains the pelvic floor to not only be stong and supportive but to release and open up so baby can shine through when the time is right!
More photos to come next time. Hope you enjoy these tips! Tune in again soon. Cheers to a happy, healthy, fit pregnancy!