23rd April 2007 15:26This is for all those who are suffering with back pain like me! Might help someone..... 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). A stretching routine is very good for toning the perineal area, stretching ligaments, strengthening the inner thigh and abdominal muscles and promoting proper body alignment, all of which will help keep lower back pain and sciatica at bay. If you are already suffering, these stretches will offer some relief for this type of pain. A good stretching routine should include the following stretches or something similar. Squatting Stretch This is just what it sounds like. Balance your body; steady yourself with a counter, table, or piece of furniture and squat for one minute at a time, 10 times a day. This is a great stretch and toner for legs and perineal muscles. Tailor Sitting Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet crossed (kind of a relaxed cross-legged position). Spend 10 minutes a day at least two or three times a day sitting in this position. It gives the inner thighs a good stretch and takes the pressure off the lower back. Tailor Stretching Similar to tailor sitting but a little more intense. Sit on the floor with your back against the couch or wall. Bend knees and put your feet together sole to sole. Slowly, see how close to the floor you can get your knees. When done over a period of time this stretch will increase flexibility dramatically. The Pelvic Tilt This stretch gives expectant mothers a double reward: relief from lower back pain and it helps prepare the body for birth. Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, exhale while pressing the small of your back against the floor then inhale and relax the spine. Repeat this several times. This stretch can be done in a standing position against the wall. In the standing pelvic tilt position press the small of the back against the wall and then relax. The standing position should always be used after the fourth month of pregnancy. Dromedary Droop This stretch relieves the pressure of the enlarged uterus on the spine. Get down on hand and knees on the floor. Keeping the head straight and neck relaxed and aligned with the spine. Roll the back to make a hump while tightening the abdomen and buttocks. Allow the head to drop down. Slowly relax the back and bring the head back to the original position. Repeat several times a day for excellent lower back pain relief and relaxation. Along with these stretches, moderate exercise is another way to alleviate lower back pain and sciatica. It's important to review your exercise plan with your doctor or midwife before you begin. Pregnancy isn't the time to try to lose weight or begin a vigorous exercise routine but you can pursue an exercise regimen at a mild to moderate level and receive tremendous benefits from it. For beginners, exercise three days a week, preferably with a day between workouts, for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. The safest and most comfortable exercises for expectant mothers are: Walking it's easy and everyone can do it and it's the perfect way to get started if you didn't exercise before pregnancy Low impact aerobic classes or pregnancy exercise videotapes done at home Swimming; it uses many different muscle groups and puts less gravitational strain on the joints (the water supports your weight, which is a welcomed relief for those who are beginning to feel like Shamu) Remember, the key to exercising during pregnancy is moderation. Don't go for the burn and don't exercise to exhaustion. A good rule of thumb is to slow down if you can't comfortably carry on a conversation while moving. Unless you have a medical condition which restricts exercise, mild to moderate exercise is very safe during pregnancy. It's good for you as long as you don't overdo it and heed your body's warning signs such as: Intense pain anywhere, but especially your back or pelvic region Excessive fatigue Dizziness Shortness of breath Feeling faint Vaginal bleeding Difficulty walking Contractions Marked decrease in movement of the baby If you develop any of the above symptoms during or after exercising, stop immediately and call your doctor or midwife.