POSTURE IN Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body goes through many changes – one of which is your centre of gravity, which affects your posture. Tina Otte gives her advice on how to maintain correct posture, so you can ease those aches and pains
YOUR SPINE IS a cleverly designed support system. Like the spine of a book, it connects and holds the body together. Every muscle is dependent on the spine in some way. When your back hurts, it affects many other parts of your body and can cause you to become tired and grumpy. Anxiety and stress frequently manifest in our backs. Coping with life becomes difficult, never mind dealing with the added stress of a pregnancy.
YOUR BACK IN PREGNANCY
During pregnancy, your belly seems to pull your body forward, so that the spine assumes a greater curve than normal. The lower back (the lumber spine) becomes more concave, while the upper back becomes more rounded. This causes the lower back muscles to shorten and weaken and therefore places great strain on the entire back. There’s a natural tendency to sway back onto your heels as your centre of gravity moves back. As your uterus and baby grow they put pressure on your abdominal muscles, which are the main supporters of the back. If these muscles are weak and give way, it allows an exaggerated curve in the lumbar area, which means the natural curve will be more pronounced and there will be more pressure in this area. Your pelvis tips forward and your buttocks pop outward, exaggerating the slight
figure “S” your spine usually has. It can hurt across your shoulders, because of the forward pull of your breasts and chin. Your rib cage is under pressure from your slouching shoulders and chest, so breathing becomes more difficult. A weakened pelvic floor and short, tight hamstring muscles also play their part in adding to the strain your back takes. Mechanically, all this is happening while hormonally, other things are going on. The hormones are responsible for causing the strong ligaments that support all these bones and muscles to soften and loosen. Relaxin is the main culprit here, as it prepares the pelvis to relax and accommodate your growing baby, as well as open up a thoroughfare during labour and delivery. As well as adding to your backache woes, it can make you feel a little unsteady on your feet and a bit clumsy as you go about your day.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR BACK
Your posture is never more important than when you’re pregnant. Bad posture doesn’t only give you a pain in the neck (and back) but also contributes to joint pain, rib discomfort, circulation, sore feet and fatigue. Bad posture means that your body isn’t “stacked” the way it should be, and some muscles are overstraining while others are too loose and relaxed. So, you need to become more aware of your posture. To find a good posture, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your side. Your weight should be evenly distributed between your feet. Stand tall and lengthen your neck. Your chin should be pulled back and not poking forward. Try to imagine you have a string pulling you up through the top of your head. Your shoulders and ribcage should be lifted up and back, and when you stand, try to tuck in your bottom so that you feel your tummy muscles working to support your spine. Make sure you don’t tighten your shoulders. Look straight ahead and keep your chin parallel to the floor.
Although back pain is the most common pregnancy niggle, it’s easily managed if you try to change some of your bad postural habits, become fitter and stronger, and learn how to relax. Enrol in a prenatal exercise class that focuses on building the strength and suppleness of the pregnant body. Change your environment to ease the workload on your back. Massage is a wonderful way to ease pain and tension in an aching back. Use heat to ease spasm. Visit an osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist for treatments if the pain is intolerable. Maintain excellent nutrition. This will boost your energy levels. Lastly, don’t take your back for granted. It’s the coat hanger that your body clings to, so take good care of it. It can’t be replaced.