When you find out that you are pregnant, so many exciting (and sometimes scary) thoughts go through your mind! You want to give your baby the best start in life, and that begins with how you treat your body while you are growing your baby. Many women begin changing their eating habits, and taking prenatal vitamins in order to provide baby with proper nutrition. Some women begin to exercise in order to stay strong and help baby be strong as well. What many of these women need to keep in mind is that while pregnancy exercise is important, it is also important to do the correct exercise and to maintain proper posture while exercising in order to avoid injury.
Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, and these changes affect the way you exercise. From a growing belly that changes your center of gravity and balance, to hormone surges that increase ligament laxity; it is very important to maintain a safe posture while exercising. One very simple and important way to maintain a safe posture is by finding your neutral spine. Many exercises should be performed with a neutral spine to avoid back injury, pelvic injury, and core injury.
Neutral spine – what does it really mean?
A neutral spine is when your spine is aligned, and there are no bent or twisted joints. The spine is not a straight line, it is shaped in a form similar to the letter S and usually includes natural curves in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. A neutral spine means to achieve the optimal position of the curvatures in your spine.
In short – a slightly rounded upper back, and slightly arched lower back.
The importance of having a neutral spine:
When a person over exaggerates the curvatures in their spine, extra stress is placed on the joints; this leaves them exposed to injury and pain. When you achieve a neutral spine, you should have the least amount of stress placed on your spine and the tissues surrounding it. By achieving a neutral spine, you can attain optimal balance, improve your breathing, and blood circulation to the tissues, which are even more important during pregnancy. You will also reduce your chances of injury while exercising.
During pregnancy, your body changes and this affects your neutral spine position. As your belly becomes bigger and your center of gravity moves forward, the curves in your spine become exaggerated to accommodate for these changes. The lower back becomes more curved as your belly moves forward and your booty moves backward; this is called a lordosis. This posture can cause back pain, pelvic pain, and instability. Taking time in your day to realign your spine by finding a neutral spine posture will help you protect your back, and decrease the chance of pain, unbalance, and injury.
How to find and keep a neutral spine:
-Start on your hands and knees with a straight spine
-Arch your lower back and move your stomach down toward the floor
-Round your back and move your stomach up toward your spine
-Repeat arching (full extension) and rounding (full flexion) your back a few times until you get comfortable
– Narrow in on a position between the two extremes that makes you feel the most pain free and balanced. That is your neutral spine.
Against a wall, in standing, or tall kneel:
-Start with your back flat against the wall
-Arch your spine, stick your stomach out, and move your pelvis down and backward
-Round your spine while bringing your stomach in and your pelvis up and forward
-Repeat arching and rounding your back a few times until you feel pain free and balanced.
Try finding your neutral spine as soon as you wake up in the morning, and attempt to maintain it throughout the day. You will find that you feel more balanced, put less pressure on your spine, and have less pain.
Before beginning any exercise, find your neutral spine in order to have a good starting point and avoid injury. The process of finding your neutral spine is a great pregnancy exercise in itself for your back, pelvis, and core.
NOTE: Exercising during pregnancy is often safe and recommended by healthcare professionals, as long as there are no pre-existing conditions or contraindications. While exercising and staying active during pregnancy is often encouraged, it is important that you check with your OBGYN first; especially if you have a high risk pregnancy or have not exercised prior to becoming pregnant.
* Dr. Elina Skripochnik PT, DPT, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Elina has been working as a pediatric physical therapist in various settings and has private experience in Women’s Health (Prenatal and Postpartum Fitness).
Dr. Elina created Elina Physical Therapy in order to educate women about the importance of achieving a healthy and active pregnancy through informative articles and safe exercises geared at women of all activity levels. Elina offers consultations, private, and group lessons to women who wish to become active and stay active.
Elina Physical Therapy also aims to help parents connect with their children of all ages (newborn, toddler etc…) through safe, fun, and educational activities and exercises, which can be performed by parents to help their child reach age appropriate milestones and excel physically.