Article written by: Jim Storhok DPT, ATC
This month, I would like to discuss the importance of proper lower back care during pregnancy. I can speak from experience on this one, as my wife is currently 6 months pregnant and experiencing mild to moderate lower back pain. There are different causes of low back pain during pregnancy, as some people may have pre-existing conditions including degeneration, disk disease, and other problems such as scoliosis. In any case, it is important, as in any low back pain patient care, to have proper lower extremity flexibility as well as abdominal muscle strength in order to give the lower back area the proper support it’s going to need in order to support a growing child in utero.
Some simple exercises and activities that people can perform while they are pregnant or in the early stages of pregnancy include stretches for the hips including hamstring, quadriceps, and piriformis stretching, which we will highlight in another section of the newsletter this month. I typically recommended stretches are held for 30 seconds performed at least 2-3 times per side or to patient tolerance. Other activities which can be tolerated well include bridging as well as posterior pelvic tilting. These exercises are good to increase stability throughout the core musculature as well as hips and gluteal muscles.
Sleep positioning is also something that should be looked at in order to increase stability and comfort for the mother-to-be. It is typically recommended that the mother sleep on her left side to maximize the blood flow to the baby, although this may cause some lateral hip or low back pain if done for prolonged periods of time. I typically recommend placing enough pillow between the knees and the ankles to allow enough space so that the outside part of the knees are in line with the width of the hips. This will tend to support both lower back as well as the top side hip to decrease muscular tension in the area. Earlier on in the pregnancy you may be able to get away with sleeping on your back with pillows underneath her knees, although with any specific questions regarding positioning, please see your OB/GYN physician. Specific exercise recommendations should be made by the patient’s OB/GYN physician, although it is generally recommended for mothers to perform light exercises which focus more on repetition versus weight. If you have any specific questions, please see her physician or your treating physical therapist.
Until next month…