There are several reasons why you might experience pain while you are pregnant depending on where the pain is, the intensity of the pain and the type of pain. If you are unsure of why you have pain (i.e. it’s a unfamiliar pain), if this is your first pregnancy or if your pain is intense, sharp, shooting, throbbing or deep you should see your doctor or specialist before all else. Once you have the all clear that it is musculoskeletal pain then you can try following some of the suggestions in today’s blog post or seek some treatment from a trusted Myotherapist, Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Chiropractor. Make sure to ask them if they have experience and qualifications for treating during pregnancy.
Low Back Pain
This is the most common complaint I get from pregnant women. The pain is usually right on the dimples at the very bottom of the low back. Sometimes there is referral up and down or across the low back as well. From how long women leave it before seeking treatment, I sense that there is a lot of pregnant ladies putting up with low back pain unnecessarily. Although low back pain is a common part of pregnancy and a lot of women experience it, this doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Here in the clinic we find treating the gluteal and hip flexor trigger points together with some exercises and sometimes ROCK taping very effective. We treat either lying on your back, side lying or face down with a supportive belly pillow depending on how far along with your pregnancy you are, what area we are treating and depending on what you find most comfortable. We won’t keep you in any one position for too long and we will support you with pillows and towels where needed.
Try this exercise at home to see if it helps with your low back pain. It’s purpose is to gently mobilise the spine allowing all the ligaments, tendons and muscles to get some blood flow and relax. If one way feels better than the other, you could try just doing one part of the cat stretch and finishing back at neutral spine (where the spine is in it’s natural position with the little dip in the low back).
- On hands and knees gently curve your back towards the roof like you are trying to lengthen the back of your shirt. Make sure you softly drop your head as you get to the end of range.
- Now do the opposite. Gently dip your stomach and ribs towards the floor this time softly lifting the head as you reach the end of your range.
- Repeat 5-10 repetitions. Once you get the pattern working try moving one spinal segment at a time starting at the base of the spine and working your way up to the head. Try adding a breath, breathe out to move and take a breath in to prepare at either end.
Depending on how far into your pregnancy you are, the rib pain your experiencing could likely be your baby pressing up against your rib cage, especially in your 3rd trimester if your baby is in the breech position. If this is the case, positional changes, heat and if really bad pain, paracetamol (at the recommendation of your doctor or specialist only) might be of assistance. The most common musculoskeletal cause of rib pain we see in the clinic however is from the change in spinal position. This is from changes to your centre of gravity along with increased levels of the hormone relaxin. This makes the deep supportive spinal muscles (multifidis & rotators) work harder and in a shortened position which activates their Trigger Points which so happen to refer around the ribs. If your pain seems to start at the back or side of the ribs and run around towards the front, this is the most likely cause of your pain. To help alleviate this pain at home, try the following stretch.
Side Lying Rib Rotations
- Lie on your side and support yourself with pillows, cushions or towels as needed. One under the head, under the belly and between the knees is often helpful.
- Bend your elbow of the arm that’s on top, drawing the elbow to the roof and sliding your hand along the lower arm.
- If it feels comfortable open out further by extending the arm behind you until you feel a gentle stretch around the chest area.
- Bend the elbow to gently bring the arm back through to the start position.
- Repeat 10-15 times each side.
Notes: Shorter limbs make for lighter work, so always start with the elbow bent and lengthen it to increase the exercise. Don’t forget to breathe! Try a breath in for step 2 and a breath out for step 3. Then a breath in to hold and a breath out to come back to the start position.
Part 2 coming next week where you will learn about sciatica and hip/groin pain during pregnancy and what to do for them. I know I’ve already stated this at the start and during today’s article but please if you have any doubts seek medical advice before doing the exercises, especially if the pain is new or different for you. Please feel free to share your tricks and tips for low back pain and rib pain below!