Lower back pain during pregnancy. We're told it's "normal." But does normal=natural? Does normal=required? I propose that what is normal in our society is what is typical or common, but not necessarily the way our body is intended to be. Rather, it is a result of our current movement (or lack thereof) and alignment habits. SO! If lower back pain is not a requirement of pregnancy, how do we fix it? Or better yet, prevent it?
It's about where your pelvis is, in relation to the rest of your body. Check it out:
Most people are *already* forward leaners. And then they get pregnant. It's not the pregnancy that is causing the back pain, but the habits we already have coupled with an extra 10, 20, 30 pounds out front. This habit of forward leaning and pelvic thrusting not only compresses the low back (lumbar spine), but also causes us to thrust the contents of our abdomen forward into the core (diastasis recti anyone?). It causes less mobility of the sacrum because we're using the muscles in the front of the legs instead of the muscles we should be using that are behind us. Not to mention, the implications all of these issues cause for pelvic floor health and optimal birth mechanics. Can't you see how related it all is? Why ALL THESE ISSUES ARE SO PREVALENT?! Why often times someone with core issues, for example, also has pelvic floor issues. Or people who have back pain also have diastasis recti (splitting of the '6 pack muscle'). Not all movement is created equal. We have to move more, yes! But we all have to move mo' bettah as well.
NOW- TEST YOURSELF!! Grab your cell phone charger and flip it over so that the heavy plug in part is on the ground. Make your own plum line like the one I drew on the picture above and stand how you normally stand and SEE where your pelvis is in relation to the rest of your body. It can be very revealing!! It may be helpful to have someone else test you because often times we need to shift a lot more back than we think we have to. You will probably need to lean your upper body forward to counteract just how far back you have to lean. Otherwise, you'll fall over.
I was talking to someone the other day about what a tough sell what I do is. It really is a paradigm shifting thing for most people. People want "3 simple exercises to do 3 times a day." But I can't offer that. Plus, if i did it wouldn't REALLY solve your problems. Especially if you're thrusting and forward leaning the rest of the day. What we NEED to do is get your alignment back where it should be... and what we need to do to get you there is to help your muscles to re-adapt to being at the proper length to hold you there. Got it?
Here's a few steps:
1. Get out of positive footwear.
You can't not lean forward and alter your alignment in any degree of positive footwear. I'm not just talking high high heels. Even most athletic shoes are positive in the heel. Any shoe with the heel higher than the toe box is positive.
2. Be mindful about your alignment.
Now that you KNOW it, you need to adjust it. It's a brain thing called proprioception. Your brian is used to you leaning forward all the time, maybe. So, it probably feels weird NOT to do that. This weird feeling doesn't mean that it's not more optimal. It just means that your habit needs to change. It might feel weird for someone not to smoke all the time, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't quit smoking. Ya feel me?
3. Walk. As much as you can. In your heel-less shoes, with your weight back in your heels and your feet staying hip distance apart. Some day I'll blog about gait mechanics more, I promise. But just WALK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. My teacher, Katy, says in one of her books that walking is not exercise, it's a biological necessity. In the same way that we know we need certain vitamins (example: we'd get scurvy if we didn't get vitamin C) there is going to be a consequence if we are not walking. I'm not trying to freak you out.... and I'm not trying to say that every little bit doesn't count. But definitely want to stress that walking is really super important.
4. Lengthen and strengthen the muscles of your backside.
Here are a few to try right away:
Calf stretch (PS- old video and MY GOODNESS that girl has grown up since then!!)
Double Calf stretch (which is more about lengthening all the muscles along the back-side, not just the calf like the name implies
Hamstring Strap Stretch- keep the pelvis untucked and the opposite leg on the ground (opposite hamstring should NOT come off the ground at all). PS- I just happened to have this photo but now I'm thinking- I should take photos of my kids demonstrating all the exercises!! Photo booth gives me 3 SECONDS ONLY to get into a position to take a photo... hence all the vids.
Look familiar? The pregnant waddle. Is this a requirement of pregnancy?
Well, yes, if the muscles along the back side have compensated for the increased load on the front side of the body (baby!)... then an individual most certainly will walk like this. But is she walking like this because she is pregnant or is it possibly because her body has compensated for lack of posterior leg strength with the increasing load on the front of the body by doing the pregnant waddle? I think it's the second one.
It's interesting that people who have never been pregnant have the same issues that are commonly associated with pregnancy. This leads me to believe that they aren't a requirement of pregnancy, but something that occurs because of the way the body moves throughout the amazing journey that is pregnancy.
But who cares how I walk, you say? Well, I do because I want to save you lots of money on your auto insurance, ahem, I mean adult diapers. Just think of me as the gecko of Depends. I also want you to have the widest space for a baby to for through. Because I'm cool like that. There are *super* simple things that we can all do (I'm talking to myself right now… Lindsay- go for a walk!!) to keep the back side strong and help reduce/eliminate some common ailments that tend to go along with pregnancy in our society.
I'm here to tell you that this stuff is not just something you have to put up with because you're pregnant! If we make the shift towards whole body movement in an aligned fashion, we can begin to minimize some "normal" pregnancy ailments. Normal, not natural. These ailments are not, in fact, caused by pregnancy. Despite the common opinion that they are. "I pee my pants because I'm a mom" or worse when a pregnant mom tells her provider that her back hurts (or whatever the ailment may be) and they tell her "sorry, but that's just a normal part of pregnancy." Normal…yes. Because if you look at the general population of preggies… most have the same complaint. But is it a natural requirement as the result of the state of pregnancy? I call B.S.! These ailments are caused by how the body is being carried around. Adding the load (baby!) on the front side is going to exasperate the problems caused by an individual's daily living and moving habits.
Pregnancy is a natural state, but we live in an unnatural world. How our ancestors moved during their childbearing years is drastically different from the way we move today. Or should I say how we DON'T move. What is a natural state has turned, for many, into a state riddled with back pain, SI pain, urinary incontinence, and diastasis recti to name a few. These ailments are normal parts of pregnancy right now because it's also normal to sit all day. To tuck the pelvis. To suck in the gut.
It's simple (and also sort of not, but that's why this is a blog meaning there is much to come!).
1. Get out of your chair! Get a standing work station. Take a walk every hour. If you must sit, sit in various different positions so that your body doesn't get used to just one. Choose the floor to sit on instead of the couch. Park in the back of the parking lot. Walk to close errands. Be creative! Usually the biggest roadblock to change is ourselves. You don't have to go crazy right away, every time we choose to move a little bit differently or more is going to give great benefit!
2. Walk, walk, walk...did I say walk? We are really designed to walk way more than we do. It's the best form of exercise out there! That doesn't mean go from no walking to 5 miles a day. It means work up to more and more daily walking. Several miles a day is best, and it absolutely can be spread out over the span of the day. In fact, I think that's better. I would love to try one of those mile tracker things that so many people have (is it called a fit bit?) because I would love to have my miles added up! And see how little or lot I am getting! It's not just about a once a day thing… it's more about a lifestyle change. More movement throughout the day.
3. Do Restorative Exercise! Stretch , strengthen, and learn proper alignment! The posterior leg muscles are shortened in most non preggies too, so that increased load of pregnancy can really do a number on them without proper alignment. Pregnancy should actually strengthen the back side. Pregnancy=best booty workout of all time. More on that in another blog post sometime in the future. I'll be sharing my fav exercises too, I promise!! I'm speaking at ICAN in March and plan to teach them some of the basic, most important ones. It's free and open to the public and you don't have to be a cesarean or vbac mom, or even pregnant to come. I'll come back and edit this post with the info when I find it!!
4. Read this blog and others about alignment!! katysays.com is a must read for everyone who has a body. So you ghosts are off the hook. I am committed to putting as much information out there on the web as I can in my "spare time." The bulk of my work will always be free to the public. So yeah, read some good alignment blogs!! But also... find a restorative exercise specialist (many do Skype sessions if you can't find one in your area). There is nothing like having someone teach you the intricacies of an exercise so that you can get more bang for your buck out of the exercises. This is coming from someone who was doing the HEAD HANG wrong before my certification week.
Now…go for a walk (I know it's cold, but bundle up or go to the mall or something!) and have a fabulous pregnancy and birth!
Note: very pregnant youtube woman, please contact me and I will give you a free Skype session!! You are beautiful and awesome and I appreciate your willingness to put the waddle on the inter webs! I had my 4 year old take a movie of me pretending to be pregnant and waddling but have not yet figured out how to post it onto the internet. Plus, he's kinda a shaky camera man.
Mama Aligned is Lindsay McCoy.