Help Pregnancy Back Pain with Stretching
The aches and pains that come with pregnancy are not unusual. As women’s bodies change as pregnancy progresses, one common symptom that they might experience is back pain.
Sometimes the pain is dull and steady, and for some women, it can be intense and short-lived. Women who face back pain during pregnancy – or after the birth of their baby – should keep their OB provider informed. The provider may refer a patient to a physical therapist, who can teach exercises and stretches.
When the pain experience is that of muscle tension, fatigue, or postural strain, stretching can be an effective too to offer relief and improve the symptoms of backache.
Here are some examples of stretches that help reduce back pain for pregnant women.
A simple stretch to start with is the pelvic rock, or Cat-Cow in the slang of mind-body exercise. Get onto both hands and knees as if you were crawling. Gently and slowly, curl your back upward (like an angry cat) and look down. Then drop your chest through your shoulders, letting your belly dip towards the floor and arch your back, looking forward. Hold each position for about 10-15 seconds at a time and repeat up to five times.
Standing Extension Stretch
While standing, place your hands at the back of your hips. Keep your head looking forward, then gently arch your back slightly using your hands to offer support. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Return to upright stance and repeat 3-5 times.
These stretches are great to do anytime during pregnancy, not just with pain. They also can offer relief of posture stress as often occurs from sitting for a prolonged time.
Sciatic Area Buttock Pain
The seated piriformis stretch can give much-needed relief for women who feel pain or achiness in the area of the mid-buttock. Pain in this area may occur as the sciatic nerve passes out of the pelvis and into the leg, traveling out beneath the piriformis muscle and causing possible irritation of the nerve in this area. This pain is often worse with prolonged sitting, standing or bending activities.
To stretch the piriformis muscle, sit on a chair and scoot to the edge. Bring your right foot up and rest your right ankle on top of the left knee. Place your right hand on your right knee to keep it still, keep your back tall and gently lean forward until you feel stretching in the right buttock. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds, and then repeat it on the other side.
Mid-back soreness is often noted due to the changes of the body associated with pregnancy. It can also come from posture stress, when we spend too much time at a desk or on a computer. Try stretches to open the chest — they can help.
Stand in an open doorway, and place your hands out to touch the sides of the door frame. Step forward without leaning until you feel a stretch across the front of your chest or even into your upper arms or mid-back. Hold for 10-15 seconds, step back and repeat 2-3 times.
These suggested exercises and stretches come from Staci Wietfeld DPT, OCS, a physical therapist with Avera McKennan Outpatient Services. Wietfeld often works at the Avera McKennan Fitness Center.