Is your back starting to talk to you — but not in a nice way? Try one of these approaches to ease your pain and feel strong and comfortable in your body again.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, between 50 and 70 percent of pregnant women experience back pain at some point during their pregnancy. But just because it’s common — and usually not a sign of anything worrisome — it doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to nine months of misery. Although medication is generally off the table as a method of treatment, there are myriad remedies that doctors, doulas, and holistic health practitioners recommend to help ease back pain, or even relieve it completely. Here are 10 you can try to keep your body as comfortable as possible while it does the most important work it’s ever done — growing your baby.
1. Prenatal Yoga
Yoga, a movement-based strength and flexibility practice with roots in ancient India, is one of the most popular techniques women turn to for pain relief, and prenatal yoga is a top choice among pregnant women whose backs, muscles, joints, and nerves are hurting under the weight of pregnancy. Prenatal yoga can help improve posture and “tone the physical body ? in preparation for the birthing process,” says Liz Owen, a Boston-area yoga teacher and the co-author of Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back: A Practical Guide to Developing Strength and Relieving Pain. Prenatal yoga also tackles emotional stress with deep, mindful breathing exercises that can strengthen and empower. Plus, yoga practice can help you sleep better and relax your mind and muscles. “In the midst of changing hormones and emotions, yoga provides a grounding and focus,” Owen says.
Acupuncture is an East Asian medical technique in which very fine needles are inserted into specific pressure points on the body that correspond with various systems of physical and emotional health. Acupuncture removes any blockages that are interfering with the smooth flow of the body’s energy, called qi (pronounced “chee”). Stimulating acupuncture points, either through needle insertion or acupressure, a technique in which the practitioner uses fingers instead of needles, can help improve digestion, boost your energy level, and bring relief from morning sickness, migraine headaches, and back pain. Studies have shown direct positive correlation between acupuncture and pregnancy back pain relief, and many women swear by its effectiveness, but acupuncture must be administered correctly to prevent unwanted side effects such as nausea, headaches, and overstimulation that can induce labor. Consult with your doctor first to make sure acupuncture is right for you, and then find a certified therapist who has experience working with pregnant women.
3. Prenatal Massage
A certified prenatal massage therapist can bring quick relief when back pain is acute, especially when it’s the result of muscular clenching that irritates nerves (particularly the sciatic nerve in the buttocks and legs) and sends pain signals to the brain. Research has shown that in addition to relieving pain, regular prenatal massage can help alleviate depression and anxiety in pregnancy. Swedish massage is the most common and advisable method of prenatal massage because it is gentle and soothing, and it uses long, smooth strokes that won’t aggravate the joints or push fluid through the body in an unhealthy way. Women should first consult with their doctors to make sure prenatal massage is safe and then make sure the prenatal massage therapist is certified. To be comfortable on the massage table, a side-lying position is usually best.
4. Chiropractic Care
You may associate chiropractors with joint-“cracking” adjustments, but they actually use a range of techniques to relieve back pain, and many women find relief under the care of someone experienced. Chiropractors routinely use joint manipulation (which can cause that poppin” sound), soft tissue work, and prescribed exercises to prevent women from feeling muscular tightness, nerve compression, and joint misalignment. “Chiropractors are good at detecting imbalances and helping to correct them,” says Robert Kum, D.C., co-owner of ChiroCare Associates in Arlington, Massachusetts. Dr. Kum, who has treated hundreds of pregnant women, advises women to look for a chiropractor who works with expectant mothers. “Experience is key,” he says, as is a positive outlook. “Most of the back pain pregnant women experience is manageable,” Dr. Kum says, so you “don’t have to suffer through it.”
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