Looking After Your Back

Looking After Your Back

November 2014

Project-B’s award-wining and totally fantastic pre and post natal fitness expert, Dr. Joanna Helcke, is a guru when it comes to back pain – with it being one of the most common complaints in pregnancy - with well over half of women experiencing this problem.

This is what Jo says:

“Back pain in pregnancy is incredibly common, so first of all, rest assured that you are not alone. Even better, for many aches and pains, a little gentle exercise of the right variety can help enormously. I’ve put together a few tried and tested exercises for you, which many of the mums-to-be doing my classes find incredibly beneficial. Just remember to always listen to your body and if any exercise makes you feel sore, then you should stop immediately. Pregnancy is most certainly not the time to be “feeling the pain” when exercising…

Roll Down from standing

  • To start your roll down, take your chin to your chest and then roll smoothly through your rounded spine as far as is comfortable.
     
  • Make sure that you relax your neck, shoulders, arms, hands and even your face.
     
  • To help with relaxation, take a breath in when you are standing tall and then breathe out as you roll downwards. Breathe in as you reach the bottom of the move and then start to exhale as your roll back up to standing position.
     
  • Perform as many roll downs as you wish: they are designed to release tension and to aid spinal mobility.

All fours pelvic tilt

  • Set yourself up in a box position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure that your back is in neutral. By this I mean that it should have its natural curves but these should not be too pronounced.
     
  • Once you have set yourself up, tuck or tilt your pelvis under whilst leaving your upper back alone i.e. in “neutral”.
     
  • If done correctly, you will feel your lower back lengthening and stretching whilst your deep abdominals at the bottom of your bump will tighten and draw inwards.
     
  • As you tuck under, hold for 1-2 seconds and release back into your initial position. Repeat 10-12 times.
     
  • As your bump grows, your lower back will start to tighten and this is the perfect antidote!

Child’s pose with hands on a chair or fitball

  • Sit back onto your heels with your knees wide and your feet together.
     
  • Extend your arms out in front of you on the chair or fitball and relax through your upper and mid-back.
     
  • NB Do not do child’s pose with your knees wide if you have pelvic girdle pain
     
  • Use every exhalation to sink a little further downwards.

Clam: right hand side

  • Lie on your right hand side, with ankles, knees and hips stacked and your knees bent (foetal position).
     
  • Rest your head on a cushion so that your neck is aligned with the rest of your spine.
     
  • Sweep your top arm upwards in a big arc, rotate your upper body and – if comfy to do so - place it on the floor on the other side of your body.
     
  • Only take your arm across as far as feels comfy – there should be no pulling across your bump.
     
  • You should, however, feel a pleasant stretch across your chest.
     
  • Let your head and gaze follow the movement of your arm.
     
  • Open and close – like a clam! – until chest feels stretched and you feel relaxed.

Modified Superman for pregnancy

  • Set yourself up in a box position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure that your back is in neutral. By this I mean that it should have its natural curves but these should not be too pronounced.
     
  • Extend one arm in front of you keeping the fingers lightly on the floor. Make sure that you are drawing your abdominals inwards so as to avoid arching your lower back.
     
  • Keep your back level when you lift your arm. Breathe and hold the position.
     
  • Bring the arm back down and then swap over and extend the other arm. Think about lengthening through your back and arm.
     
  • Now repeat this process with each leg: lift up your leg keeping the toes on the floor and without arching your lower back; do not tilt your pelvis upwards; breathe and hold the position; lengthen through your back and leg.
     
  • Now put these two moves together and lift opposite arm and leg, following the same advice, and keeping fingers and toes lightly touching the floor (see photo).

 

Clam: left hand side

 

  • Lie on your left hand side, with ankles, knees and hips stacked and your knees bent (foetal position).
     
  • Rest your head on a cushion so that your neck is aligned with the rest of your spine.
     
  • Sweep your top arm upwards in a big arc, rotate your upper body and – if comfy to do so - place it on the floor on the other side of your body.
     
  • Only take your arm across as far as feels comfy – there should be no pulling across your bump.
     
  • You should, however, feel a pleasant stretch across your chest.
     
  • Let your head and gaze follow the movement of your arm.
     
  • Open and close – like a clam! – until chest feels stretched and you feel relaxed.

Cat stretch

  • Set yourself up in a box position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure that your back is in neutral. By this I mean that it should have its natural curves but these should not be too pronounced.
     
  • Drop your head downwards and let your neck relax. You may well feel an aching tightness in the back of the neck and the upper back. Keep the head relaxed until the tension in the neck area dissipates.
     
  • Now draw the whole of your back upwards towards the ceiling, tuck the pelvis under and pull gently inwards on your lower abdominals. You should feel the whole of your spine lengthening.
     
  • Release back into neutral and repeat as necessary to relieve tightness in the back.

Repeat this mini workout as and when suits you. I think it’s a lovely one to do just before bedtime, so as to ease away the tensions of the day.

 

For a guide to these exercises, more information and top tips, log on to Jo’s website here www.joannahelcke.com/the-facts/pregnancy/back-pain-in-pregnancy/.  You can also download Jo’s FREE GUIDE to a pain-free back in pregnancy there too.