Pregnancy Back Pain

Back Pain During Pregnancy Article by Spine Center PT Featured in Local Magazine

Karen Litos, PT, MPT is The Compass Rehabilitation Center's in-house Obstetrics Physical Therapist with extensive experience and education in evaluation and treatment of pregnant and postpartum women suffering from pain. To learn more about how therapy at The Compass Rehabilitation Center can help you regain control of your pain and improve overall health during pregnancy, delivery and recovery, check out  the July 2011 edition of Patient in Charge magazine available in area physician offices and local stores, or click on the attached link.

Advantages of Aquatic Exercise During Pregnancy

By Karen Woodman, Obstetrics PT
I love to take advantage of our large therapy pool for treating pregnant patients. Why? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends immersion as one of the most effective forms of exercise during pregnancy. ACOG states there have been no reports of harm to the fetus during aquatic exercise.
Benefits include:
  • Buoyancy: The belly floats relieving pressure and pain in the groin and back with immersion. Usually exercise in the pool is pain-free.
  • Hydrostatic pressure: Are your feet and ankles swollen? The hydrostatic pressure of the water pushes edema (extra fluid) right back into your cardiovascular system reducing swelling.
  • Decreased weight-bearing: Working at hip level in the water takes 30% of the pressure off your spine, while working at chest level reduces gravitational pressure by 60%!
  • Thermodynamics: Your body temperature adjusts 25 times faster to water temperature than air reducing the risk of overheating. During pregnancy, your core body temperature (usually 98.6°F) can increase quickly during exercise to dangerous levels with associated risk of fetal deformities. Our pool temperature averages 88°F, warm enough for a comfortable workout while cool enough to be safe for exercise.
  • Resistance: Water provides gentle resistance in all directions, challenging your balance and building muscle with every step. The harder you work, and the deeper the water, the greater the resistance.
  • Hemodynamics: Immersion immediately lowers maternal blood pressure and heart rate promoting cardiovascular fitness. Studies suggest immersion also decreases risk of increased fetal heart rate during exercise.

What Does A Prenatal PT Do?

By Karen Woodman, Obstetrics PT
What's the difference between your traditional exercise instructor and a prenatal PT? While both may be beneficial, there are significant differences between the two. Studies have shown that individualized physical therapy treatment programs with specifically designed stabilization exercises are more beneficial than traditional exercise or group exercise classes in reducing back and pelvic pain during daily activities.
Here's why: A prenatal physical therapist has the experience and training to identify impairments during pregnancy and differentially diagnose the culprit(s) causing the problems. This is done through a thorough postural and musculoskeletal examination, in addition to gait analysis and physical exam of the lumbar spine and pelvic girdle. The patient is educated in how their body is changing, why they are in pain, and what to do in order to manage their symptoms and improve their functional strength for daily activities, labor and delivery, and recovery afterwards.
If you are having problems with back, pelvic or sciatic pain that are keeping you from participating in exercise and daily activities, ask your physician for a referral to a physical therapist trained in obstetrics to see if prenatal PT is a fit for you. With the right help, you can regain your life, reduce your pain, and then rejoin that fun exercise class to stay in shape!

After the Baby: Regaining Abdominal Strength

By Karen Woodman, Obstetrics PT

The abdominal muscles aid in breathing, coughing, sneezing and bowel movements. They provide stability to the trunk and stabilize the spine during lifting. They also help you maintain good posture, so there are lots of important reasons to strengthen your stomach muscles!
During pregnancy, the abdominals are stretched, weaken and often separate (known as diastasis recti). When the muscles remain separated, they can't work efficiently and can contribute to low back and pelvic pain, and a flabby appearance, and can have long-term implications to your health. So, it is important to check for, and heal, a diastasis recti.
To check yourself for a diastasis recti:
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your fingers in the center of your belly just above or below the belly button.
  • Slowly lift your head and shoulders off the mat while feeling for a separation of the muscles. Check how many fingers you can insert horizontally into the gap between the belly muscles.
  • If you have a separation of 2 fingers or more at your six-week checkup, ask your doctor about a referral to a qualified physical therapist. Do not start an exercise program doing sit-ups or crunches without consulting with a physical therapist first, as these exercises may actually worsen an existing diastasis recti!
Source: APTA Section on Women's Health. Postpartum Recovery. Revised by Karen Woodman 3/1/2011.