Tips to Avoid and Treat Back and Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the body goes through so many changes as your little one grows and develops. For new mums especially, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with all the things to consider, things to avoid and things to start to incorporate into their busy lives.
Posture is key when it comes to a happy, healthy pregnancy. As your baby grows, the pressure on your spine, legs and back muscles can increase.
As a specialist physiotherapist with lots of mums-to-be in my care, I’m often asked how women can avoid aches and pains during pregnancy and help retain strength and physical fitness ready for birth and beyond. Here I’m sharing my top tips for mums-to-be who want to maintain good posture and keep back pain at bay.
Maintain good posture in all positions
Be more aware of your posture in different situations – such as in bed, when you are sitting – even when you’re standing waiting in a queue. Increasing awareness can help you to correct your posture if you feel yourself slouching or in an uncomfortable position.
Identify the activities that increase your pain and try to avoid them
Every single woman is different during pregnancy, so it is never helpful to give them a list of things they ‘shouldn’t do’. Of course, heavy lifting and certain activities aren’t recommended especially during later months. Do what works for you – identify anything that increases your pain, and avoid those things wherever possible. If something doesn’t feel right, causes pain or makes you feel excessively tired, don’t do it. Ask for help and don’t be afraid or ashamed to let people around you know that there are certain things you will need them to do for you during pregnancy.
Keep as active as possible without aggravating your pain
Activity during pregnancy is incredibly important. Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, exercise may need to be adapted – but staying active is important to keep your joints and as supple and flexible as possible. You might like to join specialist activity groups that are specifically designed to be suitable during pregnancy, such as pre-natal yoga, PT groups for mums to be and our FitBack and Bumps sessions.
Pace yourself, and introduce regular rest periods
Pacing activities can really help to minimise any aches or pains during pregnancy. Sometimes it’s simply a case of you doing too much – your pain is your body saying ‘slow down please!’ It can be hard to slow down, especially when we’re always used to ‘doing’ – but with a little forward planning and consideration you will be able to do it. This is something we focus on through the FitBack and Bumps course I teach, where we share tips to help you to introduce regular rest periods throughout your day.
Minimise prolonged static standing or sitting, regularly changing position
As your pregnancy progresses you naturally get heavier, which adds pressure to your legs and the joints and muscles within the legs. This is why legs can often feel heavy, achey and tired after a period of standing up for too long. Similarly sitting down in one spot for too long can have a similar effect – placing prolonged pressure on other areas such as the glutes and lower back. The takeaway – staying in one position for a long time can exacerbate any pain you may be experiencing and trigger aches in your back and joints.
When sitting or standing, make sure you’re regularly changing position to avoid seizing up or placing prolonged pressure on one area for any period of time.
You may also want to avoid standing on one leg. This may sound funny – but hear me out! Hopping from one leg to the other can increase undue pressure on your joints and back (not to mention the risk of toppling over and injuring yourself as your centre of gravity changes) – so get into the habit of sitting down to get dressed and avoid any situation where you may need one foot off the ground.
You’ll likely want to sit more during pregnancy, but sitting smart is an easy way to avoid added pain or poor posture. Avoid sitting in a twisted position or crossing your legs where possible – you may find this is a bad habit you need to break! When sitting, use a small pillow in your lower back to maintain your natural curve and support your spine.
Sleep more soundly
While we sleep we can unwittingly adopt poor posture or movements which cause our muscles and joints to become painful throughout the day or even feel painful straight away when we wake up. This is even more prevalent during pregnancy, when you may find you need to sleep in awkward positions or struggle to get comfortable, especially during the later months when bump gets in the way.
When sleeping on your side, use a pillow between your knees and a smaller one under your abdomen for full support. You can buy specialist pillows for this but you don’t need expensive equipment – anything that is comfy for you will do. When turning over in bed, keep your knees together and tighten your bottom muscles.
Sound sleep also starts and ends with getting into and out of bed safely. Get into and out of bed on your side, using your hands to push you up slowly.
Adapt household chores and everyday tasks
Life doesn’t stop because you’re pregnant – especially if you already have children – so adapting everyday tasks such as housework and shopping can help alleviate pain caused by being out and about. Avoid carrying your shopping in one hand, and try to eliminate heavy lifting altogether where possible. When cleaning the house, avoid vacuum cleaning the stairs and cleaning the bath if these activities increase your pain
If you’re struggling with joint and back pain during pregnancy or want to prevent pain or injury, our FitBack and Bumps course can help to support you to continue to stay active whilst minimising pain. You can find more details on FitBack and Bumps here.