We hear it time and again: “Pain during pregnancy is normal… The baby must be sitting on the nerve…” We are told so by our friends, our sisters, our mothers and even uninvited strangers. But the truth is that pain during pregnancy is not normal. It is not expected because the baby is small and cushioned well, so he or she cannot be sitting on a nerve. However, pain during pregnancy is common. Statistics show 50-80% of women experience back pain while pregnant. This can range from significant to completely disabling pain– 80% will be unable to go through their daily routine because of their intense pain.
So the term “Pain is normal” is not a good enough answer for me. I’m a Physical Therapist, trained to help you with your “mechanical pain”. Mechanical pain means the pain that is coming from muscles, joints, lose ligaments, discs, and pre-existing asymmetries. A trained Physical Therapist can evaluate each of these structures for you, determine what is causing your specific pain, and help create a plan to help relieve that pain. Our evaluation results in a treatment plan that can implement in the office, and teach you an exercise program that you can take home to manage your pain.
Instability in the muscles and ligaments is the most common cause of the pain, resulting in other muscles working too hard to stabilize the tissues, resulting in spasms and shooting pain, that may even travel down the leg. Learning how to safely do a pelvic floor muscle contraction is the start of that stability.
Let’s try it: lie down, or sitting a chair, with your legs and back at rest. Then, squeeze up and in, imagine that you are trying to hold in urine. Try your best not to squeeze your gluteals, your knees, or your feet together, really isolate those pelvic floor muscles. Hold for a count of five, and repeat the exercise ten times. You can be make it harder by holding longer, or steadily increasing the intensity of the squeeze.
Another strong stabilizer is your abdominals! Again, sitting or lying, sink your belly button in to your spine, hold for a count of five, repeat ten times. Another nice way to help reset unstable joints is rhythmic motions, sit close to the edge of your chair and rock your hips backward and forward. You will be making your pelvis tilt forward and back, repeat ten times. All theses exercises can be done several times a day for the best results.
Here are some tips that will come in handy to help with your pain as well. Think about your posture. Imagine the string pulling your head up as you stand and walk. Keep your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles engaged when you change positions, like when you are going up and down stairs, or when lifting heavy objects or children. Wear sensible shoes, not heels and flip flops, throw the Uggs back in the closet, and instead, chose a strong heel, and good arch support.
We have touched on some important exercises and tips to help you with your back pain, but there so much more to learn. Be sure to tell your ObGyn about your pain, no matter how small, even if you are in your first trimester! Ask if a Physical Therapist would be safe and appropriate for you. Remember, back pain is not “normal” and something you need to live with, but it is common. So don’t settle for dealing with unnecessary pain.
Mona Saeed DPT, Certified MDT, CHT earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, NY, and her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY.
In addition to general orthopedics, Mona is experienced and certified in McKenzie’s method to treat cervical and lumbar spine dysfunction. She also has the unique experience of treating patients with pain related to pregnancy as early as 6 weeks to full term, in both high risk and “normal” pregnancies.
Many of the physical therapists at Tidewater Physical Therapy Inc. hold Direct Access Certification through the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy allowing them to evaluate and treat patients without a prescription. As part of your healthcare team, a physical therapist will make an assessment of your condition and create a plan to start you on the road to wellness. Our team will communicate with your physician of record and obtain a referral, if necessary, for your continued treatment. We will also work with your insurance carrier to make sure services are covered by your plan. To make your own appointment, find a clinic near you.