The Best Exercise For Prenatal Back Pain Relief

Save for Later!

Find relief with exercise for prenatal back pain due to poor posture. Learn the basics and importance of good posture during pregnancy!

Always consult with your physician first if you are having pain during your pregnancy. This post is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Always consult with your physician before starting this or any exercise or fitness program.

Why does my lower back hurt so bad during pregnancy?

Adjustments in weight distribution combined with more relaxed tendons and ligaments cause muscular imbalances that stress posture and spinal alignment, resulting in lower back pain.

To put it SIMPLY, we gain significant weight in the front of our bodies during pregnancy. Our bodies gradually adjust to support our changing center of gravity. Over time, these adjustments cause muscle tightness and/or weakness to compensate. Now, Mom’s back hurts.

How can I make my back pain go away during pregnancy?

Being mindful of posture and alignment in your daily routine, along with addressing muscular imbalances with stretching and strengthening.

This can be done by being aware of of your habits and finding areas for improvement and with a daily fitness routine.

  • Avoid long bouts of sitting. This can encourage an anterior pelvic tilt by making our hips tight and forward posture exaggerated.
  • Avoid long bouts of standing. This can encourage a posterior pelvic tilt because our glutes kick in to minimize the work.
  • Take time for mobility everyday. The best times are when we wake up because we are tight and stiff. Also, before exercise to prepare our bodies to work in the right movement patterns and after exercise when the body is loose and warm. It doesn’t have to be a long time but just hitting the problem or stiff areas for a few minutes makes a big difference.
  • Vary your exercise. Be sure to include cardio and total body strength training every week. This can vary in many formats and routine splits like push/pull, upper body/lower body, swimming, walking, dancing or whatever you enjoy. Having a variety of exercise formats will help you to look forward to your workouts while being sure to keep your body balanced! Try to avoid being too repetitive in your routine.
  • Hydrate! I feel like that is the catch all advice from every trainer, am I right? But really, hydrate your body to keep those joints lubricated and your energy up! Use my simple hydration hacks for pregnancy if you have a hard time getting in enough water.

Let’s address the importance of posture and how to identify imbalances so we can use exercise to support correction.

How Pregnancy Affects Posture

Throughout pregnancy, our bodies change and vary from person to person. Generally speaking, most women experience weight gain in the chest and of course in the belly. Both places that have major impacts on the shoulder and hip girdle.

Over time, an increase in weight pulling our spine in one direction causes imbalances to form in our muscular system. To keep it simple, our skeleton provides structure, and our muscles provide the support.

If the muscles are not properly supporting our spine, we can feel the affect in the form of discomfort or prenatal back pain. Mostly due to the change of weight distribution that is causing some of our muscles to become fatigued or over-worked.

The over-worked muscles begin to “lock up” or become tense and stiff because they are compensating for the lack of support from the antagonist muscle group.

The fatigued muscles are the unsupportive ones that were fighting this constant “pull” of the new weight distribution.

The shoulder and pelvic girdles are where these imbalances occur most drastically. So let’s go into a little more depth of each girdle.

Prenatal Back Pain and the Shoulder Girdle

In the picture above, I am demonstrating really progressed forward posture. I am exaggerating it a little here for the benefit of assessment, however this is the posture we tend to adopt from rounding the upper back. Some of us have a tendency to find this posture even when not pregnant.

It is very important to take note if you find yourself in this position, especially with your chin pushing forward like mine is. This causes an increased “load” to be added to the muscles in your upper back and cervical spine. These muscles are already hard at work to support the weight of our growing breasts during pregnancy.

When you feel an achiness in the back of your neck or between the shoulder blades, it is usually a pretty good sign your body has found this position. I like to find a wall and gently press the back of my neck against it along with my shoulder blades to find that center of gravity again.

In this case, it is important to stretch out your chest muscles. While standing or sitting, reach your arms out in a “Y” formation while looking high at the ceiling.

We also want to activate and wake up those fatigued back muscles with some contraction, or work. The best exercises are pulling variations like rows, Lat pull-downs, birddogsm, and reverse flys.

Pelvic Tilts and Low Back Pain

Again, quite a bit of exaggeration just so the difference is easier to see, so let’s dig in! When aligned, our shoulders should sit comfortably over our hips, not in front (anterior) or behind (posterior).

Anterior Tilt

Anterior tilt means our hips tilt toward the front of our bodies, anteriorly. Here you will notice a “duck butt” and forward shoulder posture. The overworked muscles that will need to be stretched are the hip flexors, quads, and low back.

An elevated runner’s lunge is one of my favorites for the hip flexors. To perform, place one foot on a stool or chair that is slightly in front of you (1-2 feet). Next, slowly shift your weight forward to elongate the hip flexors of the back leg.

By relaxing the hip flexors and quads, our lumbar erectors (low back) are not fighting as hard to maintain upright posture. Helping your low back pain find some relief.

hip flexor and quadricep stretch

In contrast, we want to activate their antagonists, the glutes and abdominals. Great exercises for those are hinges like a deadlift or bridge and core work like vacuums (drawing the abdominals inward) and bird dogs or cat cows!

Posterior Tilt

A posterior tilt is the opposite, the hips are pulled toward our back. Here you will notice a “tucked butt” and shoulders that sit far behind the hips. The over-worked muscles that need to be stretched are the glutes, hamstrings, and typically abdominals (although not in times of progressed pregnancy for obvious reasons).

My go-to is an elevated single-leg hinge. To perform, place on foot on a stool or chair. Next, maintain a long, flat back as you hinge from the hips to lean forward. Not much will be needed to feel the stretch of the eleveated leg.

hamstring and glute stretch

This will allow your shoulders to sit above the hips so the pelvic floor supports the spine.

Next, take the time to activate the antagonist muscles such as, the quads and hip flexors. That can be done with squats, wall sits, and lunges.

If you find that your back pain is accompanied by hip pain as well, check out these exercises to soothe pregnancy hip pain.

Stay fit during your pregnancy

What exercise helps pregnancy back pain?

Exercises that strengthen the large muscle groups responsible for supporting posture, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, birddogs, reverse flys, vacuums, and rows.

Be sure to read the information above to know what exercises are best for your imbalances. However, incorporating all of these exercises are beneficial for your alignment.

How to stretch lower back and hips while pregnant?

During pregnancy, you can find relief for your lower back and hips with the following stretches…

  • Elevated Long Lunge- Stand 1-2 feet away facing a chair. Place one foot on the chair and slowly shift your weight towards your front leg until you feel the stretch in the hip of the “bottom” leg. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat on both sides 2-3 times.
  • Cat/Cow- While on your hands an knees, gently round your back as your tuck your chin and pelvis into “cat” postition. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Then, slowly lower your belly down as you gently arch your back and lift your chin for “cow” position. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.

Home workouts using exercise for prenatal back pain

If you are ready to rock but want more guidance, join me for any of these Prenatal Home Workouts. Let’s take care of that prenatal back pain in a safe and controlled way!

Remember the 4th Trimester

We want to keep in mind that while recovering from pregnancy and labor, our bodies will be trying to find their way back to “normal.”

Yes, your body will have changed and be different, per say, but what you do during pregnancy greatly affects your recovery! Reducing our pain and maintaining proper posture throughout pregnancy can make such an impact on our postpartum bodies.

I had low back pain for such a long time after my first was born. And a lot of that was because I got lazy and didn’t keep my physical health a priority during those last, very physically daunting months of pregnancy.

My exercise regimen became unpredictable and infrequent. I could tell I was weaker and it was showing through more consistent and regular discomfort. And I don’t mean my beach ball belly.

So trust me when I say that I feel your pain! I want to help you learn from my mistakes.

And even if you do stay proactive during pregnancy, keep in mind that diastasis recti is also another BIG culprit in back pain after baby, and may not be avoided. But that is another topic for another day, which you can find more info on here.

I just want you to use this reminder as motivation to stay committed and strong when the going gets tough. Your future self will thank you for relieving that prenatal back pain, or at least doing your best to!

(Psssst! My post about staying motivated during pregnancy can be found here if you need a little help!)

Pin it for later or send to a friend!

About the Author

Coach Zoe

Fitness trainer and mom of 3! I love working out, hanging out with my family, and motivating others.

You are going to want to read these!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *