Health CareExercises for Low Back Pain in Pregnancy

Exercises for Low Back Pain in Pregnancy

Earlier this year, professional dancer and personal trainer Lindsay Arnold shocked fans when she announced that she’d be departing Dancing With The Stars after more than a decade on the show. While she credited her departure to a desire to focus on her family, it turns out that she also had another project in the works: The Movement Club

Arnold launched Move With Linds, a video library of accessible workouts, in December 2020. Now, it’s become The Movement Club, a new fitness platform with more than 125 workouts—including dance cardio, Pilates, HIIT, yoga, and stretching sequences—all of which are the perfect exercise snack at 30 minutes or less. 

While these workouts are approachable for people of all ages, since Arnold is a mother (with a second child on the way), many of her workouts are designed with pre- and post-natal people in mind. We sat down with the DWTS alum to discover her favorite exercises for low back pain in pregnancy. 

Why you should keep moving while pregnant

Many people feel fatigued during pregnancy, which can make working out feel like the absolute last thing you want to do. But according to Arnold, movement is key for combatting common pregnancy pains. 

“So much is going on from changes in muscle tension, decreased joint mobility, or lack of strength in crucial muscles,” she says. “One of the very first things I struggled with in my first pregnancy was low back pain, and it took me some time to figure out what worked for me to prevent that.” 

Now in her second pregnancy, she’s confident in her back-ache-relieving workout routine and looking to share it with the world. “Low back pain in pregnancy is one of the most common frustrations for women,” she says. “It is important to work on strengthening the supporting muscles as well as stretching to improve joint mobility and release muscle tension. [This combination] has been a game changer for me this time around.” Here are her six go-to exercises for low back pain in pregnancy. 

Bird dog

This move targets the posterior-chain muscles and improves core stability by utilizing the abdominal and low-back muscles,” Arnold explains. 

How to perform a bird dog 

  1. Start on all fours. Make sure that your wrists are directly aligned beneath your shoulders and that your knees are beneath your hips. 
  2. Lift the opposing arm and leg. “Slowly lift and reach your right arm forward while you simultaneously lift and reach your left leg back straight behind you,” Arnold says. Make sure not to rotate your torso or arch your back.  
  3. Return to all fours.
  4. Repeat. Alternate slowly between each side, performing 10 reps per side. 

Pelvic tilts

“This movement alleviates low back pain through isometric holds that strengthen and support the core stabilizing muscles,” Arnold explains. 

How to perform pelvic tilts

  1. Lay on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor with your knees roughly hip-distance apart. 
  2. Tilt your hips. Focusing on pressing your lower back into the ground and engaging your abs, tuck and tilt your hips up to the ceiling, while maintaining contact with the floor. (Note: This is not a glute bridge; you should not lift your bum off the floor.) Hold the tilt for three seconds, breathing as you do.
  3. Return to neutral. 
  4. Repeat 10 times. 

Side-lying leg lifts

According to Arnold, side-lying leg lifts activate the glutes, core, hip flexors, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. She says the old-school movement improves mobility in your hips and increases your core strength. “They help prepare your body for labor,” she says.

How to perform side-lying leg lifts

  1. Lay on your side. Stack your legs on top of each other, with your arm closest to the mat extended straight above you so that you can comfortably lay your head on it.
  2. Lift your top leg up to a 45-degree angle on an inhale, hold for a second, and release back down. Keep your torso as still as possible, with your hips stacked directly on top of each other. 
  3. Repeat. Perform three rounds of 10 reps per side. 

Seated piriformis stretch

Arnold says that stretching is just as (if not even more so) important as performing strengthening exercises while pregnant. She recommends the seated piriformis stretch, which targets a key hip muscle that can make a major impact on how tight the low back feels. 

How to perform a seated piriformis stretch

  1. Sit on a chair with feet flat on the ground.
  2. Place your right ankle over your left knee to create a figure four. 
  3. Bend forward. Exhale and slowly lean your torso forward, keeping your spine straight, until you feel a slight stretch in your glutes and low back. “Do not round shoulders,” she emphasizes. Hold for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the other side.  

Child’s pose

One of yoga’s most recognizable poses proves beneficial for low back pain.  

How to perform child’s pose

  1. Begin on all fours. Let your big toes touch while keeping your knees shoulder-width apart.  
  2. Shift your butt back toward your heels on an exhale while tucking your chin to your chest. If you feel flexible enough to do so, rest your forehead on the ground.
  3. Rest for six breaths. Slowly inhale and exhale before returning to neutral. 

Cat stretch

Surely you’ve heard of the cat-cow stretch by now. When focusing on your low back, Arnold says to prioritize the convex cat stretch.  

How to perform a cat stretch

  1. Begin on all fours. Again, keep your shoulders stacked over your wrists and knees directly under your hips, all while maintaining a neutral spine. 
  2. Inhale, then while exhaling, slowly pull your stomach up and round your spine to curve your back like a cat. 
  3. Hold the shape for three seconds before inhaling and releasing back to neutral.
  4. Repeat. Perform eight to 10 reps. 

For other workouts that can help to mitigate back pain, Arnold recommends these four The Movement Club classes: 

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