At some point in a 40-week pregnancy, most women are likely to experience some level of low back discomfort. Not all women will experience low back pain per se, but they’ll experience over the course of the pregnancy. That fatigue can lead to a discomfort that some women wouldn’t describe as painful, but will still lead them to seek relief.
Although the pain and discomfort may have you thinking about sinking into a couch and not moving for days, one of the most important things you can do to manage your symptoms is to keep moving. Walking and swimming are aerobic activities that will engage your whole body, take pressure off your joints, and counteract those feelings of discomfort.
Because sitting or standing still for too long can contribute to low back discomfort, pregnant women should try to change positions as often as possible, or as often as needed. It can be as simple as sitting down after being on your feet, or getting on your feet and moving a little after being sedentary for a while.
For example, when I was pregnant I worked at a small bookstore and made it a point to switch positions throughout the day. I would walk around the store helping customers or stocking shelves, then switch to admin work when I needed to get off my feet.
Choose chairs that can support you in good posture. At my bookstore job, I would alternate between a high stool that didn’t allow me to slouch, a regular desk chair with high back support, and a low chair that essentially put me in a supported squat position. Though your work days may not allow for all of these seating options, when at home consider sitting on a stability ball or a yoga block instead of the couch every once in a while.
If you’re feeling low back pain and discomfort during your pregnancy, in addition to long walks, regular swim sessions and changing positions throughout the day, here are four other ways to get some relief. You can use these movements on their own or as part of a warm-up to your prenatal exercise routine.
1. Foam Roll Glutes, Hamstrings and Calves
Tightness in these areas will increase your experience of low back pain, so you’ll do well to spend some quality time with a foam roller. Start with legs extended on a foam roller, just above the Achilles heel. Slowly roll, the calves, a couple inches at a time, and rotate your legs and ankles to alleviate areas of discomfort.
Move roller to just above the back of the knee to access the hamstrings. Again, slowly roll small areas at a time and rotate your legs to alleviate tightness in all areas of the hamstrings.
Next, sit on the roller with your feet flat on the ground. Either keep both feet on the ground as you roll your glutes, or cross one foot onto the opposite knee in a “figure 4” position (the latter position will be more challenging to achieve in later stages of pregnancy). Finally, slowly walk the feet out to the sacrum (flat spot at the top of your glutes, just below lower back). Gently rock side to side for 20 to 30 seconds. (Check out this article for more on foam rolling.)
2. Pelvic Tilts and Hip Circles on a Stability Ball
I love this exercise movement for everybody, from prenatal clients to older women and men. It’s a great core stability exercise that also strengthens the abdominal muscles.
Sit tall on a stability ball with feet rooted to the ground, shoulders back and hands on hips. Start by slowly exhaling as you rock or move your hips to the front of the ball to flatten the small of your back (posterior pelvic tilt). You should feel a slight drawing in of the abdominals. Return to neutral then slowly inhale as you move your hips toward the back of the ball, creating a slight arch in the back (anterior pelvic tilt). Return to neutral and continue for 10 reps in each direction.
When you feel stable on the ball, find your neutral position and draw circles with your hips on the ball. Keep your feet planted with hands on your waist and make sure you’re moving from your hips, not your obliques. Perform 10 circles in each direction.
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