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8 natural ways to relieve back pain during pregnancy

From Today's Parent

When your baby bump is causing back pain, there are plenty of things you can do to feel better without taking over-the-counter pain killers.

BY ALEX MLYNEK

During pregnancy, that bowling ball, a.k.a. baby, inside your uterus changes your whole centre of gravity, which results in your pelvis arahifting forward. This can lead to a common form of back pain known as pelvic girdle pain (PGP), which spans from the middle lower back area all the way around to your hips and pubic bone, says Sarah Mickeler, chiropractor and founder of West End Mamas, a clinic in Toronto that specializes in pre- and postnatal care.

At the same time, in order to compensate for this forward shift in their pelvis, many women naturally lean backward, which increases the curve of their lower back, potentially leading to low-back pain. Ouch!

All of this can add up to a lot of aches and pains, but the good news is there are a number of ways to prevent and treat it. “Pregnancy does not have to hurt,” says Mickeler. Here are some ways to find relief from pregnancy-related back pain.

1. Exercise the pain away

Staying mobile can really help with back pain as it keeps your muscles from getting too tight, says Cynthia Rebong, a midwife at Midwifery Care North Don River Valley and a yoga and Pilates instructor. Some forms of phsycial activity can become uncomfortable during pregnancy, but Rebong recommends swimming as a pregnancy-friendly way to keep moving.

 Mickeler suggests focusing on your glutes when you exercise. “We have this anterior shift in the pelvis, and now we’re tucking our butt under, so our butt’s getting really tight, and super, super weak,” she explains. And weak glutes can wreak havoc with your lower back because they force other muscles, like your hip flexors, to do the work for them. Mickeler says exercises like squats, lunges, glute kickbacks or bridges can all help support your posture by strengthening not only your glutes but your back, hamstrings and calves, which will help prevent back pain.

If you already have low-back pain, manual osteopathic practitioner Riki Richter, co-owner of Synergy Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation in Toronto, recommends doing squats against a wall, which will give you support at the same time as minimizing that lower back bend. She also suggests cat pose, which will help keep that low-back area flexible. And if you have pain around the dimples in your low back, butt, hips or pubic bone, choose fitness classes that don’t involve forward bending, as that can be painful, says Mickeler.

2. Try pelvic floor physiotherapy

Another contributor to back pain is overly tight pelvic muscles. A pelvic floor physiotherapist can help you work on those internal muscles by doing what’s basically a massage of your pelvic floor through your vagina. This type of treatment has added benefits, too, as Mickeler says it can reduce the incidence of tearing during delivery, and give you a head start for recovery after your baby is born.

A pelvic floor physiotherapist can also assess the shape of what’s called your deep core, which consists of your pelvic floor, your diaphragm, your transverse abdominis and a muscle in your lower back. Mickeler explains that if one part of your deep core isn’t working well, it can mean that other parts of your body will have to compensate, which may lead to pain. Aside from working internally, pelvic floor physiotherapists can also use exercise- and rehab-based techniques to help with low-back pain.

3. Practise deep breathing

Sometimes belaboured breathing during pregnancy can contribute to back pain. “When we’re pregnant, because our organs get squished up from the weight and the size of the baby, we tend to have diaphragms that don’t function properly,” says Mickeler. This can lead to your rib cage not moving as well as it should, which can contribute to back pain, she says. Using proper breathing techniques can help keep your rib cage moving properly. Mickeler suggests practising what’s called core breath, where your ribs go out and up on the inhale, and in and down on the exhale.

Richter explains that this directed deep breathing is also important because super-slow silent inhales through the nose will help get the breath into your side ribcage and lower and middle back, helping to release tightness in those muscles.

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