A growing baby is a wonderful thing. However, pregnancy is also a natural and progressive process that can place increased pressure on the spine and the muscles around it. This added stress contributes to the back pain experienced by about half of all expectant mothers, according to some estimates. It usually becomes noticeable during the second half of pregnancy, primarily in the area where the pelvis and spine meet near the sacroiliac joint. Here are a few things you can do to prevent spine pain during pregnancy.
Be Mindful of Your Posture
Because pregnancy slowly changes your center of gravity, you may not realize you are shifting how you sit and stand to compensate. As your spinal alignment changes, the extra pressure on your spinal joints and discs may compress nerve roots. Minimize your risk of spine pain from posture changes during pregnancy by:
- Not leaning back too far
- Naturally adjusting your posture as your center of gravity changes
- Keeping your shoulders back and relaxed
- Aligning your head directly over your shoulders
- Using a spine-supporting pillow or an ergonomically designed chair when sitting
Choose Supportive Clothing and Gear
You’re probably aware of the importance of wearing comfortable, stretchy clothing as your pregnancy advances, but it’s just as important to give your feet a break with supportive shoes since muscles and nerves that work their way up to the lower spine can be affected. Avoiding high heels may also help you maintain your spine’s alignment and reduce the risk of aggravating lower back muscles. Some other clothing/gear to consider:
- Maternity pillows or body pillows
- Maternity support belts
- Supportive bras
Sleep on Your Side
The American Pregnancy Association recommends side sleeping as the optimal position during pregnancy. This is also a good position for the spine. If you can sleep well on either side, opt for resting on your left side with your knees bent. A pillow between your legs can also help with your spine’s alignment.
It’s not advisable to do intense workouts while pregnant. However, there are many gentler forms of exercise that are perfectly safe for a growing baby yet still effective enough to increase the circulation that delivers essential nutrients to the spine and work the muscle groups that support the backbone. Strive for about 30 minutes of exercise or activity 4-5 days a week unless otherwise advised by your doctor or a Santa Monica Spine surgeon. Options include:
- Casual walking at a comfortable pace
- Yoga and other controlled-movement forms of exercise
- Water-based exercises or activities
Find Fun Ways to Stay Active
Whether you’re pregnant or not, you’re more likely to stay active if you keep it fun. One way to do this is by signing up for a class. Many places have special maternity exercise or fitness classes that take the special concerns and needs of expectant mothers into consideration. Possibilities include:
- Maternity yoga or Pilates classes
- Aerobics classes for mothers-to-be
- Spinning and cycling classes with lower handlebars to ease lower back stress
- Modified Zumba classes that eliminate high-impact movements
- Ballet-inspired Barre classes
Some women also benefit from acupuncture treatments and chiropractic manipulations. Having a friend to talk to about your back issues may also ease some of the emotional stress back pain can cause. Since hormone changes that loosen pelvic muscles and muscle separation might also contribute to back pain, it’s not always possible to entirely prevent spine-related discomfort during pregnancy. However, if you didn’t have chronic back-related issues prior to becoming pregnant, your spine pain will likely go away soon after delivery.
If you’re still experiencing chronic back pain long after you’ve had your baby, you may want to consider minimally invasive back surgery. Santa Monica patients place their trust in Dr. Hyun Bae from The Spine Institute to help them find effective relief. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.