As some might know in general or experienced it first hand, pregnancy and back pain pretty much go hand in hand. At least that’s what I expected. Pregnancy is the number 1 cause of low back pain for women. Even our sky high heels and platforms wedges don’t even take the cake. Research shows that pregnancy back pain is a pretty common complaint and can vary from one woman to another, as I quickly found out. However, like with many things, it can be managed or prevented with safe, drug free treatments such as rehab, chiropractic and strength training.
It wasn’t that I was naive to thinking I wouldn’t get some kind of pain, because up until about 4 and 1/2 months pregnant I’ve had a rather smooth and easy going pregnancy, and even to complain about the back pain I felt made me feel really bad, because some have it a lot worse. At first I thought I just pulled something in my upper/mid back or just did to much during a workout and was sore. Considering it was so high in my upper/mid back and not my lower back I wasn’t really convinced of it being pregnancy related. It always seemed to get really bad about mid-day, sitting for long periods, and especially trying to sleep at night (which was already becoming hard to do). But after enduring the pain for 4 weeks and keeping a lacrosse ball in my purse to apply pressure to it at anytime, I was over it. I couldn’t imagine the next 5 and 1/2 months of dealing with this (which I also knew I had to worse case scenario). But no amount of foam rolling, lacrosse ball, massaging, heat or ice application was really helping, so I decided to discuss some alternate treatment methods with my doctor at our next appointment.
According to the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, since the main cause of pregnancy back pain is due to the increase in body weight and expansion as the baby grows, there can be muscle imbalances, flexibility issues, and poor postural habits. Also, pregnancy back pain can be the result of alignment conditions in your joints and spine. With that being said, I had already noticed my gait change in my running which made me think, what else am I doing incorrectly. So with that, my doctor recommended that I first do some physical therapy and then maybe chiropractic treatments. So I made my appointment and got in as soon as possible.
After having my initial consultation and exam with my physical therapist, she told me I had some weaknesses in my Rhomboids, Trapezius, and Latissimus Dorsi. She recommended I start off my rehab coming twice a week so we could work on strengthening and stretching these muscle groups and other areas that have an effect on my target muscle weakness. Of course, the thought just like many of you would think, “but I work out on a regular basis how could I have these weaknesses”, did cross my mind but I was there to learn and be taught and if nothing else to dedicate one hour, twice a week to really focus on those things that I apparently was not focusing on.
So like with any exercise program we started off warming up for couple minutes, then performed some stretches targeting the Hamstrings, Hip Flexors, Rhomboids, Pectorals and then finished with a range of motion on the stability ball for a lumbar extension and flexion motion, as well as some core movements. We performed these 3 times each either holding for 30 seconds or 10 repetitions. Then we moved on to an exercise, I know all of our clients love to hate…the side steps with the band around my ankles! Before we started the exercise movements, they would perform a light massage therapy on the area that was causing the pain. After that we performed exercises with various light Thera-Bands. Exercises included shoulder scaption 3 X 20 Reps., shoulder horizontal abduction 3 X 20 Reps., resistance band rows 3 X 30 Reps., and multifidus isometric exercise 2 X 20 Reps. We then ended with Bird/Dogs for 1 X 20 Reps. and then iced the area.
As many of you, may or may not recognize these exercises by name, believe me I did and you would to, if shown. They were all exercises that we as your trainers have had you do from time to time but maybe with more difficulty or weight. Again, all things that I know of or have had some of you do but just wasn’t taking the time to do myself. I actually really enjoyed my time during physical therapy, it was nice to be on the other side and focus on what and how they were wanting me to train, and giving myself that time. I attended therapy for a total of 4 weeks. During that time the pain was still there during certain periods (sitting, driving, lying down in bed) but I kept going. That’s the thing, it does take time. Even the therapist said it would take about 3-4 weeks of coming straight and performing these same exercises on my own on the off days, (just lower repetitions) which I did. I honestly could tell that it was helping, it started little by little, always feeling better on the days I had rehab, and noticing that the onset didn’t start as early in the day as it once did. Then by week 4 I didn’t notice having the sharp pain anymore. Whether, it was my body just adjusting again or what I believe was the help of a little therapy, my upper back pain has totally gone away, and I still perform a lot of the stretches and exercises just to keep up with it.
So in hindsight, as hard as it is to slow down the pace of your training for an injury or pain, don’t forget to take the steps to either help prevent it or strengthen it properly, even if that means a little slower pace training. Ask us, we have tons of suggestions for stretches or low impact exercises that can help for some of those areas that might be bothering you, however, just like with exercising to achieve fitness goals, weight loss, you have to put the time and effort into it, not just a one time stretch or exercise, you have to keep things up on your own not just when you see us. Consistency is truly the key!