Physiological changes during pregnancy
Pregnancy is an extremely special and empowering experience for any woman however it can also be a difficult time for some who suffer from pregnancy-related pain and disability. Joint instability is a common feature of pregnancy as a result of the hormonal changes that take place.
Hormones such as relaxin soften the ligaments supporting the joints of the body and can lead to joint instability particularly around the pelvis, hips and lower back. Sprains and strains may occur more frequently leading to pain, physical limitation and even fair avoidance when it comes to activity.
Postural changes associated with the growth of your baby and uterus along with a build up of fluid in the body can increase the mechanical stress on the body and pressure on the nervous system.
Many women experience conditions such as carpal tunnel and sciatica both of which can lead to debilitating pain, reduced strength and ultimately functional impairment.
Guided movement practice, strengthening and breathwork can assist women through their pregnancy journey.
Activating and strengthening the muscle systems involved in joint stabilisation is important for reducing the risk of injury, reducing incidence of pain and ultimately preparing the mother for the birthing process and post-birth phase.
Pregnancy and pilates
Pilates may be an ideal method of achieving this. Pilates targets the major muscle groups involved in providing support for the joints of the body, postural control and breath control. This includes the deep abdominal muscles which provide support for the pelvis and spine, especially the lumbar spine which is susceptible to strain during pregnancy.
Pilates also targets the pelvic floor muscles which provide support to and relieve pressure on the pelvic organs and pelvic joints as the baby grows and descends in the womb. Optimal postures may be maintained throughout pregnancy with Pilates through the strengthening of the muscle slings involved in postural control.
The diaphragm is another important muscle involved in Pilates practice. Control and coordination of breath with movement is a large part of this form of exercise. Breath control may assist with reducing stress and anxiety and improving organ function during pregnancy and can also be of benefit during the birthing process itself.
Mobility work during pregnancy is also important however it is essential to know how best to move and what to avoid. Too much movement may contribute to joint instability and pain therefore it is important to seek guidance from a professional as to how to move best during exercise.
Often the thoracic spine (upper and mid back) can become stiff and uncomfortable during pregnancy. This may be due to the changes of the body and centre of gravity that occur as the pregnancy progresses. For example an increase in breast size and rounding of the shoulder girdle can place increased mechanical stress on the thoracic spine.
A change to the lumbar lordosis associated with the growth of your baby and uterus can also place increased stress further up the chain. Pilates exercises incorporate mobility work along with strength and stability practice to ensure you are mobilising in a safe and guided manner. If you are attending a class or are working 1:1, your instructor will be able to guide you as to how to safely move during each exercise.
If you are interested in getting a prenatal movement program or are wanting more information about pregnancy supportive pilates classes give Raglan Physio a call on (07) 825 0123