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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more






Stretches for Lower Back

In a perfect world, the best time to get in tip-top physical shape is before you conceive. But for the majority of expectant mothers, this is not the case. For some, pregnancy is actually a motivator to get moving and improve their level of physical fitness. Some reasons expectant mothers decide to improve their fitness level are fear of a difficult labor and delivery, wanting more energy to handle the demands of motherhood after the baby is born, or it may be that by being pregnant, they are taking more time to care for themselves. For some expectant mothers, they start exercising or stretching to help provide relief for lower back pain or a bad case of sciatica.

The discomforts of pregnancy are not designed just to make an expectant mother miserable. Most of the aches and pains during pregnancy are side effects of the preparations the body is making for that miraculous moment when your baby is born. Lower back pain and sciatica are no exception to this rule. You will experience increased joint laxity due to the hormone relaxin, which is released into the body to allow the uterus to expand up to 150 fold as the baby grows. Relaxin affects all connective tissue throughout the body, including ligaments and tendons, which support the joints. The increased flexibility makes you more susceptible to back pain from strains and injuries from abnormal motion. The abdominal wall also changes; it stretches and grows thinner during pregnancy, stretching the abdominal muscles as well, which help stabilize the back and maintain body posture. This added pressure on the lower back will also contribute to lower back pain and discomfort. Add your oversized belly to all this and you have the perfect recipe for a nine month backache.

Sometimes you may feel shooting pains in your lower back and legs. These pains occur when your enlarging uterus or the baby's head presses down on the sciatic nerves, the major nerves that run from the backbone through the pelvis and down towards each leg. Most mothers who have had an attack of sciatica during pregnancy learn quickly there is really no other discomfort quite like it. Sciatica is aggravated by normal everyday activities like lifting, bending and even walking.

You may find some relief from lower back pain and sciatica if the baby changes position or your body shifts the position in which you're carrying your baby. Most of the time this will provide temporary relief at best. More often than not, expectant mothers have to learn to manage their lower back pain and sciatica. Toning, stretching and strengthening the back and abdominal muscles through a stretching routine and moderate exercise program can usually accomplish this. In addition to relieving that back pain, the stretching and exercise will pay off tremendously in labor and delivery and during those first postpartum days when you are trying to get your body back to normal (that is once you remember what normal is).

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