• Sami Cattach

The 4 Best Stretches to Relieve Back During Pregnancy (and Postpartum!)

Updated: Dec 17, 2019



Back pain during pregnancy is one of the most common discomforts experienced by women who are expecting, and it is easy to see why! Growing a mini human is hard work, and pregnancy can be a huge adjustment for your body.


As baby grows, the load on the muscles and joints gradually increases and the hormonal changes during pregnancy increase the stretchiness of the ligaments around the pelvis - resulting in the surrounding muscles have to work pretty hard! This often results in the muscles getting tight and restricting movement, creating tension and pain in the back or pelvic girdle.


Having said that, pelvic and back pain during pregnancy - while common, is not necessarily normal and doesn't have to be something you just put up with!


Encouraging easier movement of the pelvis and addressing the tension in the surrounding muscles through stretching can help to provide great relief from this pain, and can actually help prevent future pain as your pregnancy progresses - so do your stretches mums-to-be!


These are my top 4 stretches that I did all of the time during my own pregnancy and recommend most often to my pregnant patients when they come to see me with back or pelvic girdle pain issues.


Why?


Because they’re simple, can be done pretty much anywhere you can find a table, counter top, or chair, and are very easy to fit into your day. We have listed them here for you, or you can check out the video above to follow along!


When should I start doing these stretches?

These stretches are gentle enough for mums-to-be at any point in their pregnancy, and you can do them as much as you like as long as you feel comfortable!


How often should you do these stretches and how long for?

The more often you get to do these stretches, the better. When I was pregnant I would hold them for 15 to 20 seconds and do them about 3-4 times a day in the morning when I woke up, before going to bed in the evening, and any time in between during the day when I felt like I needed to move.


Keep in mind we don't need to aim for the most intense sensation ever! We're actually just looking for that initial gentle pull which begins to get your body moving in different ways, so don’t feel you need to push too hard into these stretches.


While these stretches help to manage or prevent pain, they also have the benefit of helping to prepare your pelvis for the essential mobility that it needs to get ready for birth.

Where can I do these Stretches?

Anywhere you can find a chair, a counter top, or pretty much anything that will support you at that height. Make sure it is sturdy and stable!


Check in with your breath

One thing I talk about with ALL of my patients is breathing - it’s so important for pelvic floor and core health, especially during pregnancy. The health of pelvic floor depends on the movement of the diaphragm as you breathe, so use these stretches as an opportunity to tune in to your breathing and try some longer, deeper breaths which also helps to address pain and calm down the sympathetic nervous system.


Stretch 1 – Standing Hamstring Stretch

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your forearms resting on a kitchen counter or back of a chair (or hands with arms straight on the seat of the chair).

  2. Walk your feet back till you can let your spine soften and relax into a gentle curve

  3. Move your bum backwards and allow your tailbone to float upwards to feel a pull sensation down the back of your legs.

  4. Hold for 10-60 seconds, as often as you can throughout the day.

How it helps:

  1. Lengthening and releasing tension down the back of the legs decreases the load on the spine

  2. It also allows the pelvis to open and move more freely during birth

  3. Forward leaning positions help to relieve the pressure on your back, and are great for encouraging optimal foetal positioning - giving baby a chance to move and change position if they need to (i.e. transverse/breech/posterior)


Stretch 2 – Standing Groin Stretch

How to do it:

  1. Rest the upper body onto a counter/chair as above, but this time take the feet further apart.

  2. Gentle move your hips toward one side till you feel a pull on the inside of the opposite leg, ensuring no pain is felt during the movement.

  3. Hold for 10-60 seconds, as often as you can throughout the day.

  4. Repeat on the other side.


How it helps:

  1. Maintaining the suppleness of the inner thigh muscles is essential to decrease the stress on the pubic symphysis, even though it can feel a bit counter-intuitive if you have groin pain. Start gently and ensure you don't have any pubic pain during the movement.

  2. It is also necessary for the mobility of the pelvis, and to allow the pelvic floor to relax and function at it's best.

  3. Forward leaning again for the win, encouraging baby's movement and giving your back a little break - a lot of my Mamas also love this position (though not quite as wide with the feet) during their labour!




Stretch 3 – Thoracic and Shoulder Stretch

How to do it:

  1. With your hands on the counter/chair or even a wall, walk the feet a little further back till you can comfortably let your shoulders and chest lower down.

  2. Feel free to bend the knees a little if there is too much sensation down the back of your legs. The aim with this stretch is to help open up the shoulders and get the upper back moving more freely.

  3. Hold for 10-60 seconds, as often as you can throughout the day.

  4. If you have any concerns with a large abdominal separation or feel a bit unsupported here, you may prefer to do this stretch with your hands on a wall, above shoulder height when you are standing.

How it helps

  1. Allowing the upper part of the spine to move more easily takes more of the load off the lower back

  2. Forward leaning again for baby's position and to give mum's back a break.

  3. This stretch is SO great for new mamas who are doing a lot of carrying and feeding!




Stretch 4 – Standing Hip Flexor Stretch

How to do it:

  1. Stand with one leg in front of the other in a lunge-stance.

  2. Square up the pelvis so it is facing directly ahead (not twisted to the side).

  3. Gently tuck the tailbone under or pull the pubic bone forward to feel a pull or lengthening at the front of the hip (on the same side as the back leg).

  4. Hold for 10-60 seconds, as often as you can throughout the day.

How it helps:

  1. Undo all the repetitive shortening these hip-flexor muscles get from sitting throughout the day! Again necessary for pelvic mobility during a vaginal birth.


So to sum up:

  • Pelvic and back pain is common during pregnancy, but not normal and certainly not an inevitable part of this incredible journey you are on.

  • The more often you get to do these stretches throughout the day, the better, but they should never cause pain. Aim for a gentle pulling sensation only.

  • These stretches are also super helpful for maintaining or improving mobility of the pelvis in preparation for a vaginal birth.

  • If you are experiencing ongoing discomfort - be sure seek guidance and treatment from your friendly neighbourhood Women's Health Physiotherapist!

  • Hot tip: These are also great for back pain at any time, including postpartum! So keep them handy in your repertoire after baby arrives.

It is also important to note that pain is a complex sensation experienced by the brain and pregnancy hormones, and can also be highly affected by stress and fear of movement and so getting good education and guidance from your Women's Health physiotherapist can be hugely helpful for addressing ongoing pelvic and back pain!


What stretch are you planning to try first? Please leave a comment below and let me know if you have a stretch that you absolutely loved during your pregnancy.









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Australia

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