The joys of pregnancy and being a new mother are undeniably endless. It is a special time that should be appreciated and relished. Unfortunately, many moms and moms-to-be have a difficult time enjoying their belly and/or baby grow because of back pain. It is estimated that 84% of women experience back pain at some point during their pregnancy. Many cases of back pain during pregnancy can be avoided by heeding to a few simple tips. Consulting your local physical therapist is the best way to obtain personalized care; however, the following are 5 steps to help get you started on a pain free pregnancy.
1. Exercise Regularly Carrying a baby is hard work. An expectant mother’s center of gravity is constantly shifting to prevent you from toppling over. Therefore, sufficient endurance and strength are necessary to support your ever growing belly. Walking, swimming and recumbent cycling are excellent choices for exercise at any stage in pregnancy. You’ll want to consult with your doctor and/or physical therapist to find out the appropriate amount of exercise for you. A good rule of thumb is approximately 30 minutes six days per week at a mild to moderate level of exertion. Exercise is not only good for mommy, it’s also good for baby. Research done at the University of Auckland showed that exercise during pregnancy helps prevent oversized babies.
2. Proper Posture Bad posture can result in back pain in a very short period of time. From a side view, your ear, shoulder, hip and ankle should be in one line; this is called a plum line. Practicing good posture should not be too difficult if it is done properly. While sitting, the feet should be flat on the floor and the hips slightly higher than the knees. The plum line principle applies from the hips up through the shoulder to the ear, which should all be in a straight line.
3. Good Body Mechanics Often, we don’t realize how much we use our backs until we get hurt. Back pain can be severe enough to where even just moving your arm can be excruciating. This is because the muscles of the back are working to stabilize the spine when moving an extremity. It is important to ensure that the abdominal muscles are engaged especially when lifting or bending. Try practicing when you load the dishwasher or unload the dryer. Don’t forget to use your legs. Allowing them to do the work will decrease the strain on your low back.
4. Kegals, Kegals, Kegals Did you know that Kegals are for more than just your pelvic floor muscles? A study published in Physiotherapy Research International (2002) concluded that when you contract the pelvic floor muscles it also aids to contract the abdominal muscles, specifically the transverse abdominus which is the muscle that wraps from the front to the back like a corset. It can be difficult to ascertain whether you are performing Kegals correctly. The muscles that you use to stop urine flow are the same muscles you use for a Kegal. The trick to increasing strength of your pelvic floor is performing elevator lifts, meaning lifting the pelvic floor 4 levels, up and release the same way, 4 levels down. These are best performed slowly and with control building up to 2 sets of 10 repetitions, two to three times per day. If you should need more direction or have difficulty holding your urine, whether pregnant or postpartum, seek help from a licensed physical therapist.
5. Eat Enough Protein During pregnancy the muscles of your back are working hard to support the extra weight of your growing hips, belly and breasts. Approximately 75 grams of protein should be consumed in an average day while pregnant (45 grams is the recommended amount for a non-pregnant female). The amino acids in protein are the building blocks throughout your body and your babies’. Good sources of protein include yogurt, cottage cheese, beans, meat, and nuts.
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Jacqueline Crowell, PT, DPT graduated with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia. She has been practicing at BreakThrough Physical Therapy in Sunnyvale, California since 2010 specializing in pregnancy and postpartum related pain.
BreakThrough Physical Therapy opened in Sunnyvale July 19, 2004, with the goal of providing the highest level of care, quality reporting, convenient scheduling, and efficient billing systems to ensure that their patients enjoy an experience that is consistent from their first contact. They are continually improving their systems and adding both professional as well as support staff who uphold these same values.
For more information about pain and dysfunction associated with pregnancy and post-partum changes, visit BreakThrough Physical Therapy at: https://btpt.wpengine.com/index.php/page/index/healthy-pregnancy-physical-therapy or call (408) 736-7600.