Back pain in pregnancy is one of the most common complaints I get from from my prenatal yoga students and birth doula clients.
While prenatal yoga is a great way to help relieve and manage chronic back pain, it is important to consult with a chiropractor that specializes in pregnant bodies to understand the exact nature of YOUR back pain, and to get treated by a specialist.
I recently interviewed Dr. Natasha Hayden, chiropractor, to better understand:
Why is low back pain so common in pregnancy?
As the uterus grows, the centre of gravity shifts. You may have noticed feeling ‘off balance’, tripping, or falling as early as the first trimester! This change in coordination may impact your biomechanics, which could cause stress on the muscles, ligaments, and joints of the lower back and pelvis.
In addition, we usually see an increase of the lumbar lordosis, or the curvature of the lower back becomes more exaggerated. This can be caused by tight hip flexors, particularly the psoas. When curvatures of the spine are outside of the ideal range, this can cause stress on the joints of the spine. Some increase in this curvature is expected in pregnancy.
Often, the head will also move forward, which makes it feel much ‘heavier’ to the shoulders. This may result in neck or upper back pain in pregnancy.
Relaxin is a hormone with several functions, starting at conception. One if it’s roles is to ‘relax’ or soften the ligaments in preparation for birth. Our ligaments act as static joint stabilizers, so often our dynamic joint stabilizers - the muscles - will tighten in response. Sometimes they overdo it! The piriformis tends to become tight, which can result in sciatica (pain that travels down the leg) and/or low back pain.
What you can do at home to help minimize back pain
While it’s important to check in with a prenatal chiropractor in pregnancy, it’s important to know there are a lot of things you can do at home to prevent or manage low back pain in pregnancy.
Think of it like going to the dentist… ideally, we brush and floss regularly at home. But we still check in with the dentist from time to time, preferably before we are in a crisis.
assess your workstation, especially your seat. Ideally, anyone working seated has access to a sit/stand desk, as research indicates that anyone working form a desk should spend at least 30% of their workday standing. Being able to vary your work position can be hacked, by using boxes and a second keyboard to switch it up from time to time. For seating, some pregnant folks find they prefer a kneeling style chair, as it ideally positions the pelvis. But a balance ball, or balance ball chair, might be nice to switch it up a little.
Yoga is fantastic in pregnancy, to address strength, balance, and flexibility. If you’re new to yoga, I would strongly suggest working with an instructor (virtual or in person) to ensure proper positioning in poses. If however you’ve practiced yoga for many years, you can probably jump into a self-guided prenatal yoga practice. Give yourself permission in pregnancy to do what feels good in your body, and to slow down.
Many enjoy swimming in pregnancy.
Birth fit is also a popular online option for fitness training in pregnancy, but many local options are usually available from someone specialized in prenatal fitness.
Quick reminder that if you exercise a lot, and especially in hot weather, you may want to add back in electrolytes that are lost with sweat, particularly if you’re experiencing muscle cramping. This can be done via nutrition such as coconut water or melons, or many powders and drops are available if that’s easier.
I think that every birth parent would benefit from pelvic floor physiotherapy in preparation for birth, and particularly for recovery after. Massage therapy may also be of benefit. Your prenatal chiropractor can help build out your birth care team.
She also considers herself to be a care coordinator, and is excited to connect practice members with resources and providers in the community to best support them in their health and wellness journey. When not providing hands on care, you can find her working on bringing sleep equity to individuals and communities through her work at Somnolence+ and Sleep Well Network.
To work with Dr Natasha you can contact the clinic via natashahayden.ca or follow her on instagram at dr.natasha.hayden.chiropractor
For more information on sleep wellness, visit somnolenceplus.com and look for the launch of Sleep Well Network in spring 2022