Today’s post is all about the postural changes that occur in a pregnant woman’s body. I hope to shed some light on what’s happening on the inside to help you understand why you may be suffering with stiff shoulders, neck strain, back pain and what you can do to help.
There are two things that contribute to the aches and pains:
Firstly, PHYSICAL changes: The growing bump and boobs shift the centre of gravity forward as the pregnancy progresses.
Secondly, HORMONAL changes: Higher levels of progesterone and relaxin cause an increase in soft tissue and joint laxity.
Combined, these two factors place further demand on your musculo-skeletal system and the following changes occur to compensate:
YOURS NECK AND SHOULDERS
As you’re carrying more load on your front than you’re used to, your shoulders tend to roll forward to compensate. The head carriage starts to drop forward, putting a strain on the neck muscles. The weight of the head dropping forward also puts a strain on the upper back, causing it to round. The muscles in your upper back, particularly those in between your shoulder blades, may weaken and lengthen. This forces the shoulder blades to separate and can causes “wings”.
These are all signs of what is called “Upper Crossed Syndrome”, illustrated below:
YOUR LOWER BACK
The growing bump also affects the natural curve of the lumbar spine. The pelvis tips forward to make space for the baby, which causes the lower back to become more arched.
This has a knock on effect to the surrounding muscles: The hip flexors become tighter and shorter, resulting in pulling the pelvis forward. The gluteals (the muscles in your bottom) weaken and lengthen as your bottom pushes backwards. Your abdominals stretch (and sometimes separate – diastasis recti), and your lower back muscles become tighter. This goes a long way to explaining the common lower back and pelvis pains experienced during pregnancy.
These are all signs of what is called “Lower Crossed Syndrome” which the below illustrates:
Another postural effect to be aware of is your changing centre of gravity. As your baby and boobs grow, your centre will shift forward, testing your balance. Everyday actions such as walking down stairs can becoming a little more challenging as your body tries to find equilibrium.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Rather than resign yourself to these common aches and pains, a lot can be done to reduce and often eliminate these discomforts occurring.
This is achieved through a balance of release and strengthening: release through the front of the body, and strengthening of the back of the body.
Front of body: Opening up the chest muscles, and releasing and stretching the muscles of the neck. Whilst working to strengthen the muscles of the upper back, and the upper and mid-trapezius.
Back of body: Releasing hip flexors whilst keeping space in the lower back, being mindful not to over stretch the front of the tummy, and strengthening the glutes to create stability in the pelvis.
Below are two circuits for you to try out to help if you’re experiencing any of the above or any aches and pains:
CIRCUIT ONE: UPPER BODY
- Band revolutions
- Band chest openers
- 3D wall openers
- Neck stretch
- Seated row
- Row with spinal rotation
- Chicken head with band
- Kneeling chest openers
CIRCUIT TWO: LOWER BODY
- Non-linear cat & cow
- Low lunge to hip flexor stretch
- Lower lunge with arm circles
- Lower back release – wall wag tail or floor wag tail
- Anti-flexion / Anti-lateral flexion exercises
- Glute leg raises and kick-backs
- Table top half superman
- Table top superman
Videos with more guidance on the above will be released @planetmamauk IG during w/c 30th November 2020.
*NB. If your pains are super bad, I recommend you seek the help of a physiotherapist who specialises in pregnancy.