Back pain, especially lower back pain, is very common during pregnancy. As your baby begins to position him or herself for birth, more and more weight and pressure are added to your uterus. The unfortunate result of this process is that your baby-to-be might settle on what’s called your sciatic nerve, in the lower portion of your spine. Stretching is one key way to relieve some of this discomfort. Not only can stretching ease pain, it can also improve flexibility and keep muscles warm and loose—both of which will seriously come in handy on delivery day. Read on for fitness experts’ favorite stretches that relieve pregnancy back pain.
Hip Flexor Stretch
As your pelvis moves during pregnancy, your hip flexors and psoas (deep-seated core muscle) shorten, explains Katie Mann, Club Pilates master trainer and the owner of four Club Pilates studios in San Diego County. This can cause increased round ligament pain throughout the lower back.
To perform this stretch, stand behind a chair with your left foot about two feet in front of the right and both heels flat on the ground. “Keeping your chest tall and lifted, press your hips forward towards the chair, squeezing through your glutes,” she explains. “As you hold the stretch, reach your right arm up to the sky and then slightly lean to the left to open up the front of the hip.” Repeat this stretch for 30 seconds twice on each leg. Do this twice per day throughout pregnancy.
As your growing baby expands in size, he or she will inevitably press against your lower back. This, Mann explains, will begin to affect your entire spinal column. To ward off future shoulder injuries, she encourages all her pregnant clients to stretch the front of their chest and shoulders throughout their pregnancy using a simple stretch.
Stand in a doorway with one foot in front of the other. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and raise your arms so you look like you’re calling a touchdown. Place your forearms against the door frames. Lightly lean forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your chest and shoulders. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
As your hip position changes and your weight increases throughout pregnancy, your calves and lower limbs are affected as well. “Tight calves can change a pregnant client’s gait or the way they walk, thus causing low back pain,” says Mann. She recommends calf stretches to loosen up the muscles in this area.
Start standing, facing a chair or wall for support. Step one foot two to three feet back and plant your heel down on the floor. Keep you heel glued to the floor while leaning forward toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. “While holding this stretch, bend the back knee and then straighten it five times to stretch the soleus that runs beneath the main calf muscle,” she says.
If you’re a yogi, you know this move well. It involves pulling in your knees to a fetal position and resting on the mat without moving. This pose also provides a great deal of relief for your lower back. “It helps with flexibility, strength, and grounding for the sacrum and the neck and shoulders,” says Claudia Matles, a certified yoga instructor.
Start on your hands and knees. Lean back onto your ankles and extend your arms forward. “Place your forehead on the mat and inhale deeply, feeling both space and length,” she says. “Exhale up through the arches of your feet, and feel the energy move up into your heart as you soften into the center of the pose.”
Reverse Tabletop Pose
Also known as purvottanasana in yogi, this position is fantastic for lengthening and rejuvenating the back, pelvis, and hips, explains Matles. Sit on your mat with your knees bent in front of you and your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands behind you on the mat and take a deep inhale. Lift your hips shoulder height so that they’re parallel to the mat. Keep your neck aligned with the rest of the spine and hold the pose for five smooth, deep nostril breaths, adds Matles.
Seated Side Stretch
“This stretch not only helps your lower back, but it creates more length and space at the side seams of your waist, which can come in handy during labor and delivery,” says Matles. Start in cobbler’s pose (baddha konasana)—sit on your mat with your knees bent apart and the bottoms of your feet together. Extend your right leg outward, keeping your left leg tucked in. “Inhale, extend, and reach your right arm towards your right foot and hold. Exhale. Inhale and lift your left arm above your head so your bicep is by your cheek. Look up past your left fingers and take several rounds of breaths through your nostrils. Set up on the other side and enjoy!”
Side Body Stretches
“The muscles between your ribs and hips along your side bodywork overtime throughout your pregnancy as the baby grows and spreads the muscles of your core towards the sides of your body,” explains Mann. So, a stretch that works your obliques can be just what you need to ease up the pain on your lower back.
Sit tall on a chair. “Grab a hold of the side of the chair with your left hand, while you reach your right hand up to the sky and over to the left side of your body, opening up the space between your right rib and hip,” she says. “Hold the stretch and breathe deeply for 30 seconds, twice on each side of the body.”