Over the last year I have been happily driving around the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney trying to make peoples lives that little bit easier by providing a mobile physiotherapy service that works around peoples busy lifestyle. Over this time a pattern has emerged. Pregnancy, babies and back pain. I have had numerous calls from desperate mums and mums-to-be who are all suffering from sore backs. Recent studies show a prevalence of around 50% - so you have a pretty good chance of getting it! The cause is normally a complex combination of the weight gain of pregnancy, the changes in posture, and the hormonal effects causing relaxation of muscles and ligaments.
So here are my five tips on avoiding this scenario:
1. Practice good posture: As you grow so does the arch in your back to compensate against your shifting center of gravity. If standing for long periods of time, try and lean against anything that will take pressure from your lower spine. When sitting, choose a chair with a back support or place a pillow behind their lower back. When lifting, squat down and use your legs. Recognize your limitations and ask for help if needed.
2. Be sensible with what you wear: What you wear can aggravate or alleviate your back pain. Wear low heeled shoes with a good arch support. Choose maternity clothes with a low supportive waist band. Many women find a maternity support belt helpful to provide extra support. Also, while sleeping, extra pillows can help keep your spine aligned. Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees, one behind your back and another under your abdomen. A body pillow can be helpful for positioning.
3. Gentle exercise is key: Regular physical activity can help keep the muscles in your lower back strong and can actually relieve back pain during pregnancy. Pilates is the perfect fit for pre and post natal mums. Check out these videos as a starting point.
4. Prevention is better than cure: Even if you feel a mild ache start your own therapy regime. Applying heat and alternating ice and heat can improve back pain. A massage from your other half can soothe muscle tension. Professional prenatal massage may also provide comfort. Gentle Yoga and Pilates is a great preventative method.
5. Listen to your body: If your back pain doesn’t respond to these self-help tips, it may be necessary to rule out pregnancy complications. Back pain can be a symptom of preterm labour. If in doubt get it checked out. Physiotherapy is great during pregnancy as we can help align the pelvis and prescribe the correct exercises for your body.
Go forth and be the other 50%!