How can doing light core exercises help relieve your pregnancy-related back pain?
To answer this question, it helps to first understanding the underlying cause of your pregnancy-related discomfort, the disruption of your upright pelvis.
As your baby grows within the uterus and your muscles loosen in response to the pregnancy hormones, your pelvis wants to rock forward / downward. This forward rotation of your pelvis increases the stress on your back, pelvis, hips, and legs and is the underlying cause of most pregnancy-related pain.
Since your core muscles help support the upright pelvis, you can utilize light core exercises during your pregnancy to help reduce the forward rotation of your pelvis caused by your baby’s front loaded weight.
The best maternity core exercises incorporate both a gentle pelvic tilt to help rock your pelvis backwards along with the activation of the four specific muscle groups in your deep “inner” core.
For you muscle nerds out there, the four muscle groups of the deep inner core are your pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominis, respiratory diaphragm, and multifidi,
Here is a description of the light maternity core exercise that my patient’s utilize to help relieve their pregnancy-related pain.
NOTE: discontinue the exercise if it is uncomfortable to do
Exercise Position: done lying inclined on your back. To create a slightly inclined surface, place three overlapped pillows in sequence and a fourth pillow on top of the first. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground a few inches apart.
- Using your hands, grip the skin of your stomach (2-3 inches to the side of the belly button) and gently press the skin towards the center of the body.
- Gently rock your pelvic bones backwards to flatten to curve in your low back.
- Tighten you “inner” core by a) slowly tightening the pelvic floor (visualize slowly cutting off the flow of urine) and then b) tighten your lower abdominals (visualize gently drawing your pelvic bones together at the central pubic zone).
- With a pillow between your knees, gentle press the knees together.
- Do a light “bridge” by slightly lifting your buttock off the ground.
Hold this contraction for a 5-10 count (say the numbers out loud to breathe). Then return to your start position, relax the core, and start over. Repeat until you feel MILD fatigue.
Try to do this exercise at least twice a day (morning and evening).
For best results, do this maternity core exercise in combination with the best pelvic tilt exercise to relieve pregnancy-related pain. You can view these exercises in a video presentation of the HOME PROGRAM that I use with my patients.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments section and I’ll do my best to help you.
Kevin Hansen, M.P.T., is an obstetrics physical therapy specialist, who practices in Bellevue, Washington State.
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