Stretching is at least as important as cardiovascular and strength training for back pain prevention and treatment during pregnancy, so try not to sacrifice this crucial component of the exercise program. In order to improve flexibility, it is recommended that stretches be performed daily after you are warmed up. Hold the stretches (never bounce) for 20 to 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.
Although there are many stretches that can safely be performed during pregnancy, the muscles that most often contribute to back pain are the back, hamstring (in the back of the thighs), and chest and neck muscles.
- Back stretch: Start on your hands and knees, with your legs wide apart and hands placed forward just a little in front of your head. Place a small pillow under you to give support to your abdomen, if needed during this back exercise. Sit back on your knees and stretch your arms forward to feel a stretch along the spine.
- Hamstring stretch: Face a chair and place one foot up on it, keeping both hips and feet facing forward. Keep your back straight and lean forward from your hips to feel a stretch in the back of the thigh. If you can’t stand tall or your knee bends, try a lower step.
- Chest stretch: Stand with your head upright and with your back straight. Clasp your hands behind your back, and without leaning your shoulders forward, gently stretch your arms up and back to feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders and arms.
- Neck stretch: Sitting or standing, bring your head forward and tipped to one side. With the hand on the same side as your head is tipped, reach up behind your head and give a gentle pull. Turning your head as you pull can help isolate the specific neck muscles needing stretching.
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Due to the multitude of changes happening within the body, back pain during pregnancy tends to be a common complaint, and exercise is a simple way to achieve comfort and relief during this exciting time.
It is important to always discuss your symptoms with your health care provider to ensure exercise is appropriate for you and to be informed of any guidelines or restrictions that may be recommended. Some pregnant women may benefit from more intensive or individualized treatment for their back pain.
- Silva, A. Preventing and Managing Back Pain During Pregnancy. Expect Fitness. 2004.