Pregnancy Yoga: Back Pain
Updated: Mar 8
There are lots of reasons your back can hurt when you're pregnant. Different things will be useful, depending on the cause. Your ligaments are softer thanks to a hormone called relaxin. That means your joints aren't held so tightly and it's a bit too easy to distort them, or over stretch, particularly if your posture habits are out of balance - sinking into one hip or sitting with a leg crossed over. The effect is doubled if you don't have good alignment and muscle strength to hold yourself in functional posture. Keeping good, strong and balanced alignment will often help you to feel more comfortable. This especially applies moving around when you're in labour and birthing. Get into good posture habits now and it'll be easier when baby is born, particularly when you're nursing your little one. Relaxin can hang around in your system for up to two years.
If a disc bulges in your spine, it can press on a nerve. The nerve 'jangles' along its length like a guitar string, so you may not feel its effect in your back, but in your buttocks, thighs or anywhere down your legs, or if the disc is higher up, in your shoulders, arms or wrists. If you have had a disc problem in the past, it sometimes reappears during pregnancy. Forward bending puts extra pressure on your discs, so bend your knees and learn to lunge instead - a bit of a work out for thighs. If you sit with your tail bone tucked under, it's the same effect on your lower back - rounding like it would in a forward bend. Sorry, another reason to avoid your beloved squishy sofa, and pay serious attention to your posture if you sit or drive for long periods. You need to keep the beautiful arch in your lower back to give your discs space.
You may find that a chiropractor or osteopath can help to gently realign your joints and find some more freedom to move and feel more comfortable. Make sure they are both qualified and experienced to work with pregnancy. Hormones are making your joints different and they need to take baby into account too.
Sometimes baby is the cause of your back pain if they are positioned in a way that they press onto a nerve themselves. Stretching by holding the top of the door frame can sometimes encourage little ones to give you room and less pain. Also follow the positioning guidelines to line little one up as well. Breech babies are not so comfortable to carry as they don't fit neatly into your hips, so it's worth checking up on baby's position if you're feeling really uncomfortable just to be sure. There are easy techniques to encourage baby to turn without any need for hands-on manual manipulation - just ask me and I'll show you what you need to do.
Your centre of gravity changes as baby grows which can make lifting and moving things (or people) in a well structured way more difficult. You can't bring heavy objects close enough to you to balance the weight and the forces put extra load into your spine in a way that its mechanics can't deal with so efficiently - so you can strain a muscle with a lower weight than you used to lift. Get someone else to help and highlight to your employer if you need support or to adapt your role at work. They have a duty of care. And it's not much use to them if you're signed off sick, so it's in their interests to keep you safe and healthy too.
Finally, another effect of relaxed ligaments can be SPD. The joint is called the Pubis Symphosis - so I have no idea why they reverse it for the acronym. Your hips are two bones and usually held together tightly by ligaments, like elastic bands. If those bands slacken, the two bones can sometimes move independently - for example when you're walking or climbing stairs. Sometimes there's a lot of movement in the joint but it's comfortable. Sometimes there's only a little movement but a lot of pain. In this situation your hips need symmetry and stability. Keep your knees together getting out of a car for example. Your midwife can arrange a belt to stabilise your hips if you're in a lot of pain and it's affecting your day to day activities.
It's important to look at the cause of your back pain before you can decide how to ease it to be more comfortable. Notice when it feels better, what sets it off, makes it feel worse and relieves it. They'll give you the clues you need. Have a chat after class if you have any questions. And remember, always talk to your midwife or GP if you at all concerned.