Back exercises for pregnancy can be invaluable for managing pain. Up to 80% of pregnant women develop back pain.
There are a variety of exercises that can be helpful for alleviating low back pain during pregnancy. Swimming and water exercises are excellent for pregnancy, because they allow you to exercise in a supported environment.
When getting into the water is impractical or inconvenient, the following strengthening and stretching exercises can be helpful. Keep in mind that it may take some time to see improvements, and regular practice will bring the best opportunity for relief.
Exercises for relieving prenatal back pain are targeted at strengthening and stretching the back, pelvis, abdomen, thighs, hamstrings, and chest. These exercises are great for targeting your core muscles. Exercises for pregnancy should not cause pain. Do all exercises slowly and gently, being sure not to overstretch or strain your body.
• Pelvic Tilt Exercises: Pelvic tilts help to strengthen and support the low back and abdominal muscles. They can help to stabilize the spine, and are particularly helpful for lumbar back pain.
To perform pelvic tilts, get down on your hands and knees. Keep your arms straight, and shoulder width apart. Keep your legs hip width apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles, pulling them upwards toward your spine while tucking your buttocks under and rounding your back, like a cat. Breathe, and then relax your back. Repeat.
• Kegel Exercises: Kegel exercises work at strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. This can help support the uterus, bladder, and bowel. When your uterus is supported, it will help hold your abdomen up and relieve pressure from your low back and spine. Pregnancy places a lot of extra weight and strain on your pelvic muscles. Strengthening can be very helpful.
To perform Kegel exercises, you need to contract your pelvic floor muscles. To help identify the correct muscles, begin by trying to stop the flow of urine while you are going to the bathroom. This is only to help you in identifying the correct muscles. Please do not practice your exercises by starting and stopping the flow of urine. Doing Kegel exercises while urinating can cause the muscles to weaken if done repetitively, and can lead to urinary tract infections.
Once you have identified your pelvic floor muscles, you can perform Kegel exercises while either sitting or lying down. Contract your pelvic floor muscles. Hold the contraction for 3 to 5 seconds, and then relax for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat this procedure for 10 repetitions. As you continue to practice this exercise, you can increase the time you contract your pelvis to 10 seconds per repetition. Breathe while performing these exercises and tighten only the muscles of the pelvic floor. Be sure that your abdomen, thighs and buttocks remain relaxed while doing Kegels.
You can also identify your pelvic floor muscles by inserting your finger inside your vagina and trying to squeeze the surrounding muscles. If you are contracting the muscles correctly, you should be able to feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward.
• Chest stretch: The chest muscles can often contribute to back pain during pregnancy because the weight of the uterus pulls downward on the chest muscles.
To perform the chest stretch exercises, clasp your hands behind your back. Gently raise your arms up and back, stretching the front of your shoulders and arms. When performing the stretch, do not lean your shoulders forward. Keep your head up and your back straight.
Another stretch for the chest is to stand in a narrow doorway. Bend your arms at the elbow and hold your arms out at about shoulder height. Rest your arms against the doorway. Gently and slowly lean your body into the doorway for a gentle stretch.
• Back stretch: Get down on your hands and knees, with your legs spread wide apart. Place a small pillow under your abdomen to support it, if necessary. Sit back onto your knees and then stretch your arms forward and out to feel your back stretch. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds. Breathe. Raise your body back up, and then repeat 2-3 repetitions.
• Hamstring stretch: To perform a hamstring stretch while standing, stand facing a chair, stool, or step. Place the heel of one foot up on the chair. Use a wall, table, or another object to help you balance. Keep your back straight and then lean forward at the hips, lowering your chest gently toward your leg. Be sure to breathe and hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Alternate legs, repeating the sequence 2-3 times per leg.
To perform a hamstring stretch while seated, sit on the floor. Extend one leg. Bend the other leg, with the sole of your foot touching the extended leg. Try to keep your legs as flat to the ground as possible. With your chest up, your shoulders down, and your head up, place your hands on the straight leg and lean forward at the hips. Hold your abdominal muscles in and your chin up. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Alternate legs, repeating the sequence 2-3 times per leg.
• Wall squats: Wall squats help to strengthen your abdominal muscles, thighs, and buttocks.
To perform wall squats, stand with your back, head and shoulders against a wall. Place your feet 1-2 feet from the wall. With your lower back pressing in toward the wall, squat slowly as if you are preparing to sit down. As your knees approach a 90 degree angle, slowly come back up while continuing to press your back and buttocks against the wall. Repeat this procedure 10 to 30 times.
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Orit Cox is a Holistic Health Practitioner in San Diego, CA and content writer for PregnancyMomandBaby.com, an information resource for pregnancy and mothers. Go to www.pregnancypainrelief.com to get your ebook filled with easy to implement techniques for relieving pregnancy pain.
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