Exercises for back pain in pregnancy

Having a baby can be joyful and daunting at the same time. The thrills and spills of every trimester bring new challenges and new opportunities to experience the delight of motherhood.

Pilates can be one of the most effective ways to help prevent pain, maintain strength, reduce stress and help reduce the risk of diastasis and pelvic floor problems after your baby arrives. Best of all it is fun too!

This low impact (no bounding and jumping) but high value exercise will help your breathing too. It can be done with specialised equipment such as the Pilates ring, Swiss ball or Reformer, like we have at Vitality Physiotherapy in Southwark or on a mat.


Maintaining your strength throughout your stages of pregnancy will help prepare your body for carrying your baby as well as promote recovery after birth whether you have a caesarean section or a vaginal delivery.


As Laura Porro, our fabulous specialist pregnancy Pilates teacher says, “Pilates is about feeling good in your body, not just at the studio, but at home too”


The 5 best exercises for lower back pain in pregnancy


In this video Laura, will guide you through the 5 best Pilates exercises for lower back pain during pregnancy.


Tips before trying this:

  • Make sure you have enough space around you and listen to your body:
  • If something does not feel right, take a break, or skip the exercise.
  • Try not to look at the screen, but if you prefer to see, pause the exercise, and then return to it, to protect your neck and keep your balance.


Exercise 1 – Lateral breathing

Lateral breathing will:

  •  Enhance your proprioception.
  •  Increase your lung capacity.
  •  Lengthen your spine.
  •  Condition the deep muscles of your inner unit (core).


Exercise 2 – Thoracic rotation

Thoracic rotation is key to reduce lower back pain because it helps stabilise and strengthen the lower back muscles, which are under great stress during the growth of the baby. It is key here to keep the waist and hips facing forward, whilst the ribs and shoulders rotate around your central axis.


Exercise 3 – Quadruped hip hinge

A key skill to prevent lower back pain and mitigate it when it arises is the ability to move your hips, without moving your pelvis. During pregnancy, due to the hormonal and weight distribution changes, the ligaments in the pelvis can become more mobile, thus leading to instability in the pelvis and subsequently lower back pain. This exercise helps stabilise the pelvis whilst the hips move.


Exercise 4 – Quadruped lateral rotation

Similarly to exercise 2, here we focus on opening the chest, whilst keeping the lower back stable. Notice the difference between stabilising the pelvis here and during exercise 2: which one did you find easier?


Exercise 5 – Semi supine pelvic rotation

This is the most challenging exercise (that’s why it comes last):

As you shift your weight from the left to the right side of the pelvis, feel the neutral curve of your back. The tailbone is always the heaviest point, with a sense of lightness in the lower back. Keeping the two sides of the pelvis aligned (without dropping one half during the rotation) strengthens the intrapelvic ligaments, which are needed to rebalance the pregnancy-related changes mentioned above.


For any questions, comments, or to book a personalised assessment of your exercise needs during pregnancy, please contact us at:



Specialist Pilates for pregnancy

In our recent blog, we talked about back pain during pregnancy. Let’s take a look at how a specialist Pilates programme can support the health and good functioning of the pelvic floor in women and men, thus mitigating the risk of developing back pain and reducing it when it occurs.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a system of training for the body and mind, based on principles created by Joseph Pilates.

By fostering a deep connection between body and mind this incredibly graceful exercise, creates a unique awareness and focus. Pilates practice leads to an intense and deeply satisfying workout, which leaves you feeling stronger, more flexible and at ease in your body.

During a Pilates session at Vitality, you use a range of small props (such as bands, balls, and weights) and equipment, including the Reformer.

Pilates is the optimal complement to other physical rehabilitation and training programmes, such as physiotherapy, because:

  • It helps re-integrate the injured joint with the rest of the body.

  • It restores and re-trains optimal movement patterns, to prevent the recurrence of issues.

  • It addresses the postural factors that contribute to injury and pain.

The powerful changes that Pilates can bring

How does Pilates help pelvic floor issues?

Pilates exercises can mitigate and improve the following conditions caused by pelvic floor issues:

  • Back pain.

  • Urinary incontinence.

  • Anal and vaginal air.

  • Recovery from vaginal birth and episiotomies.

  • Prolapse.

  • Pelvic floor muscle disorder and pain.

A Pilates-based pelvic floor reconditioning programme focuses on:

  • Training the deep core muscles of the inner unit (transversus abdominis, multifidi, diaphragm). This means conditioning these muscles and learning how to coordinate them.

  • Developing efficient breathing mechanics. Optimal intra-abdominal pressure is needed to ensure the correct functioning of the pelvic floor muscles.

What does this look like in practice?

During a Pilates session at Vitality, our specialist will take you through a series of exercises to condition:

  • The abdominal muscles (lower abdominal fibers and transversus abdominis). For instance, you will perform exercises in a supine position where the spine is neutral and the hips move, e.g. lifting your legs up.

  • The back extensors. For instance, exercises in a prone or standing position where the spine is extended or stabilised against gravity, e.g. moving your limbs when in four-point kneeling.

  • The diaphragm. For instance, breathing exercises to practice coordinating the different muscles in the inner unit, and to practice moving in sync with different breathing patterns, e.g. the classic Pilates exercise ‘Hundred’.


How do I know if I need this?

If you are experiencing lower back pain or any other of the symptoms listed above, book your assessment with us. Our experts will determine the root cause of your issue and develop a personalised programme tailored to your needs and goals.

Top 5 Summer injuries and how to prevent them

1. Gardening injuries

We kicked off June with a very balmy Jubilee weekend and it’s been a brilliant summer so far! If you enjoy a chilled glass of rosé, weekend BBQs, and a spot of gardening too, you’ve found good company!

Gardening injuries, however, are quite common, so here are some handy hints to help you get the most of your long summer days. Extended pruning time, using inappropriate tools, and heavy lifting with poor technique are often the biggest culprits!

Try the following to keep your love for gardening alive:

  • Warm up before you weed-up! Try taking a brisk walk to get your heart rate up, prior to starting your gardening session.
  • Sit on a stool or kneel on foam pads to help prevent knee and back pain when planting or weeding.
  • Long handle tools will reduce the work and prevent you from overstretching.
  • Impose a 20-minute limit (to make a cuppa of course) to take a short break especially if you’re a gardening novice!

Don’t spoil a perfect day in the garden with a pesky injury! If you have any questions about an injury or wondered whether we can help, book a free 15min call to chat about how we could help you.

2. Neck strains

If catching some rays on your back is a priority this summer, be sure to set a timer or get someone to wake you. Apart from the obvious perils of turning into a lobster and the pain associated with it, getting a stiff neck from lying prone (on your tummy) on the beach will certainly put a damper on your holiday. Reading for long periods on a sun lounger can also cause a crick in the neck, so be sure to do a few neck stretches every so often to keep your neck mobile. Here are some useful neck stretches to try. 

  • Tilt your head to one side and hold for 15-20 sec and then to the other side. 
  • Roll your shoulders forwards 5 times and then backward. 


3. Running shin splits 

Trying to get beach-fit quickly? Trying to run away those extra pounds? A sudden increase in running thresholds (especially if you’ve never run) is one of the biggest single causes of shin splints. This, together with wearing inappropriate footwear, a higher BMI and flat feet are among the top factors that can result in shin splints. Try switching to swimming or cycling instead and seek physiotherapy advice before hitting the pavement again to avoid this common summer injury.  


4. Plantar fasciitis

In warmer weather, we tend you to swap our more supportive shoes for flip-flops, pumps, and sandals. Whilst increasing the airflow helps us feel cooler, our feet have to work a lot harder to help us move. This can cause aching burning feet at the end of the day. The intrinsic foot muscles may have deconditioned over the long winter and therefore be subject to strain and fatigue. If you suffer from burning feet, try doing the following: 

Place a bottle of water in the freezer for an hour or so. Place it under your foot to act as an ice roller- trust me, it will absolutely hit the spot to relieve your burning feet! 


5. Cycling injuries 

Fair weather cyclists the world over can all relate to a “dead pinky” or lower back pain after getting into the saddle. Bike setup is crucial to your cycling comfort and can also contribute to the work of cycling. Your pre-bike fitness however will set you up to ensure you’re recruiting the correct muscles for your pedal power and avoid injury. Weak glutes are sometimes responsible for overworking the lumbar spine or hamstrings. A simple bridge exercise is useful for hip mobility and strength, particularly for cyclists as it replicates the action of the downward force of pedaling and isolates glut muscles.  


We hope that these few simple golden nuggets will help keep those summer injuries at bay and that you have a wonderful and long summer! 

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