Pregnancy is a sacred time. You’re a matter of months away from introducing new life into the world — a new soul capable of contributing its own talents and skills to the well of being. And as your baby begins to knit together in your womb, your body will undergo a series of changes, including. several common aches and pains. Below, you’ll learn about common pregnancy pains, as well as ways to deal with them using stretching, myofascial release, and other modalities.
Low back pain
Ligaments work to prevent excessive movements in joints. Increased elasticity means more joint instability, which may manifest as back pain in some women.
Natural anatomical changes also take place during pregnancy. The reverse C-shape in the spine becomes exaggerated to compensate for the weight of the baby at the front of the body, which can cause increase pressure in the spine.
The psoas muscles, which connect the lower spine to the hips, also become shorter and tighter to compensate for these sources of instability.
Try these methods of pain relief:
- Stretch your psoas: Stretching can also help to calm down the nervous system within muscles and temporarily reduce sensations of pain:
Take a kneeling position and place one foot forwards so you reach an angle of 90 degrees at the knee of the leading leg.
Place your hands on the knee of your lead leg and gently rock backwards and forwards, opening the front of the hip of the kneeling leg.
Round ligament pain
Round ligament pain often occurs during the second trimester. These two stabilizing structures (there’s one on each side) are thick and short in non-pregnant women and help to secure the pelvis and uterus. However, they become long and taut in pregnant mothers.
The pain usually manifests as a sharp and sudden sensation caused by the ligaments irritating local nerves. After confirming with your doctor that the round ligament is indeed the source of your pain, you can try some of the options below to minimize the unpleasant sensation:
- Apply heat: Place a heat pad over the painful area. Warmth helps to dilate blood vessels, improve circulation to the area, and soothe discomfort.
- Pelvic tilts: Movement can often help to minimize pain through the release of happy chemicals and by increasing blood flow. Pelvic tilts are a low-intensity exercise that helps to mobilise the pelvis.
Lie flat on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor.
Take a deep breath in and try to brace your abdominal muscles. From here, gently push your lower back into the floor.
This will reduce the curve in your spine and tilt your pelvis forwards. Hold this position for 3 seconds and exhale as you return to a neutral position. Repeat the exercise 5-6 times.
Place your thumb onto the arch of your foot. Now lift your big toe. Feel that taut band? That’s your plantar fascia. Just as its Latin name describes, it’s a band of connective tissue that runs across the bottom side of the foot.
The plantar fascia works to support the foot during movement while also absorbing forces. During pregnancy, the additional weight of a developing baby sends a lot more load through this specialized tissue, which can result in pain and inflammation (known to doctors as plantar fasciitis).
Thankfully, there are a few techniques you can use to care for your feet and reduce the pain:
- Stretch your calves: The Achilles tendon attaches to both the calf muscles and the plantar fascia. Tight calves can pull at the connective tissue at the bottom of the foot. Stretch your calves frequently to keep tension at bay.
- Spend more time barefoot: While many people opt for orthotics when dealing with plantar fasciitis, this technology may actually exacerbate the root of the problem. Our feet contain many small muscles that help to support the arch of the foot. By walking barefoot, we increase the size and strength of these muscles, which in turn share the load with the plantar fascia.
- Ice bottles: Place a bottle of water into the freezer to create a DIY “foam roller”. Place the bottle under your foot and roll it up and down the arch. Not only does this help to release fascial tissue, but the cold helps to drastically reduce painful flare-ups.
Sciatica refers to pain that arises from the sciatic nerve, a thick fibrous nerve that runs from the lower spine down the back of the leg. Women that experience back pain during pregnancy sometimes feel shooting pain that radiates down the hamstring. This arises due to nerve irritation caused by pelvic instability, or excessive muscle tension as these tissues try to compensate for loose ligaments.
Try these stretches to reduce sciatic nerve pain:
- Figure 4 stretch: Sit in a chair and place your ankle on your opposite knee. Keep a straight back and lean forwards while breathing deeply for a satisfying sciatic stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
- Table stretch: Stand facing a table and place your hands on the surface. Stand with your hips shoulder-width apart. Push your hips backwards and maintain a straight back to feel a nice stretch through both hamstrings.
Although most of these issues are inevitable, they are only temporary, and these techniques can be employed in your daily life to minimize their toll. After all, as with all things in life, it takes a level of sacrifice to obtain the greatest achievements: a new life.