By Dr Shikha Jain
International Yoga Day 2019: Yoga is a very common way to prevent and relieve back pain at home. However, if you are pregnant or a sciatica patient, it is important that you perform yoga under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Back pain in pregnancy is common due to excess spinal loading during the growth of the foetus. Yoga is a great preventive measure to relieve the stress that builds up in your spine which prevents it from radiating to your arms and legs. Here are a few stretches to help ease common backaches associated with pregnancy:
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This resting pose is excellent for a gentle stretch of the lower back that helps relieve aches in the spine, hips and pelvis. During this stretch, the muscles worked include the spinal extensors, the hamstrings, rotators and gluteus maximus. In fact, one of the main benefits of the Child’s Pose is that concentration on one’s breathing while in this pose can be of great benefit during labour.
This stretch strengthens the lower back, thus aiding in the decrease of lower back pain while also increasing spine mobility. An increase in the spine fluid circulation keeps the spine lubricated and healthy which helps in warding off new pain and easing an existing painful condition. While performing this pose, muscles of the spine, arm, abdomen and back are worked.
Seated Piriformis Stretch (Supta Kapotasana)
Also known as the modified half-pigeon stretch, this helps in relieving sciatica or low back pain. The piriformis muscle is located deep in the glutes and can spasm at any point during pregnancy. This could lead to back pain radiating down to a leg as it is closely connected to the sciatic nerve. Stretching gently helps relieve pain and tightness. During pregnancy, this stretch needs to be performed while being seated on a chair.
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
This stretch is performed in a seated position. It stretches the back, neck and inner thighs and is an effective hip opener that helps stabilise and bring awareness to the pelvis. It should be performed while leaning on a yoga or birth ball during pregnancy.
Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Along with providing your hip flexors with a gentle stretch, a bridge pose can also help strengthen your lower back, abdomen and glutes. Since it is a back-bend, pregnant women must avoid going too deep into the bend. However, a gentle stretch will help relieve aches of the lower back and hip, also bringing about pelvic awareness which is beneficial during labour. Use of a Yoga Block can help ease this stretch.
Before you get started, there are a few things pregnant mothers need to keep in mind regarding any kind of Yoga regime:
Avoid overenthusiastic stretching beyond the normal range of motion during pregnancy as this may be dangerous and can result in the occurrence of an injury. One must thus not go too deep into poses while practicing prenatal yoga.
During the first trimester, one must avoid heated yoga classes as excess heat can affect foetal development. In case you become too warm, excuse yourself to cool off while also carrying water to ensure adequate hydration to help cooling off.
It is important to understand that it isn’t necessary to push your boundaries like you may have done before. Pregnant mothers must avoid poses that crunch the uterine area and must focus on more twisting of the upper back and shoulders. It is beneficial to rest in a comfortable child’s pose when needed. A few poses can be performed on your side instead of on your back, while a lot of props can be used for added comfort.
One must avoid vertical inversions such as headstands in order to avoid the risk of injury from a fall as the centre of gravity changes during pregnancy. This could also affect the positioning of the baby in the third trimester especially if head-down in the uterus.
During the third trimester, faster-paced classes may become tough. At this time, the pace of performing yoga must be slower than usual while the focus must be on a few prenatal postures and breath work in preparation for labour and delivery.
Mothers who suffer from chronic pain during pregnancy should first meet a spine specialist before beginning even the most simple yoga regime so as to avoid injury. In the case of increased backaches, one must seek guidance from a spine specialist to determine which postures and movements are beneficial for the individual. A Spine Function Test helps determine the complete profile of one’s spine after which functional recovery is possible through pain management and targeted mechanical and medical treatment of the affected area.
(The writer is Senior Spine Specialist, QI Spine Clinic.)