The role of muscle strength & control in pre- & post-natal back & pelvic pain

Many pregnant mummies experience pain in the lower back, buttocks and groins during their pregnancy. One of the major causes of these pain is the weakening of muscles being unable to cope with the increased demand.

Massage is often used as a remedy for these painful conditions, but massage alone does not improve muscle strength and control, thus the effect is always temporary. With proper treatment being delayed, pain can last beyond pregnancy, disturbing life in the years to come, even getting worse with later pregnancies.

The core muscles are the muscle group most prominently affected by pregnancy. Many think of the core muscles as the 6-pack abdominal muscles, but that is not true. The core muscles are made up of 4 deep muscles surrounding our trunk - the diaphragm, the pelvic floor muscles, a deep abdominal muscle called transverse abdominis, and a deep spinal muscle called the multifidus. Working together, these muscles maintain the central stability of our body in all movements.

Pregnancy and delivery weakens our core muscles. During pregnancy, the presence of the baby stretches the deep abdominal muscles, making it more difficult to exert force. The pelvic floor muscles could also be weakened from previous vaginal delivery.

While the muscles are in their weakened status, the workload, on the contrary, has increased. With increased body weight during pregnancy, mummies need more work from the muscles to stabilize and move the body. The hormonal changes increase the flexibility of the joints, requiring more effort to control the joints. Even after delivery, the hormonal changes persists especially with breastfeeding. The physical demands continues due to care of the baby.

When muscles are overworked, they start to tighten and send out pain signals. They could also shut off, leaving the excessive stress to be born by passive structures such as the joints and ligaments, also leading to pain in these structures.

Massage of the tight muscles helps the muscles to relax, thus alleviates the pain at that moment. But massage does not help to strengthen the muscles, thus when the muscles are put back to work, soon they are overwhelmed again. Pain will return.

Addressing these muscle issues does not require strenuous, lengthy, or complicated exercise programs. Mummies will benefit from small little exercises that can be done anytime, anywhere. Careful change in muscle activation patterns in daily movements also help to alleviate pain in day to day activities. These changes are long-lasting.

The role of physiotherapy is to identify which muscles are weak, and which muscles are tight in each particular mummy, and tailor make exercise programs that helps to minimize the symptoms most efficiently for each individual.

Click here to check out our free guides for overcoming pain during the pre- and post-natal period!