The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Back Pain in Pregnancy - and Why Men Can Get It

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In school, we were taught about the "unavoidable lordosis of pregnancy." Lordosis (technically, hyperlordosis) is when you allow too much inward arching in the lower spine - Drawing 1 at right.

Over-arching causes one kind of lower back pain. It was taught as something that "just happens" to the spine during pregnancy. I asked the professors why women could also get it before and after pregnancy, and why men got the same kind of compressive force on the joints of the spine, called facet joints. It became a focus of study in my lab with lifters for many years.

The post Neutral Spine or Not? and What is Neutral Spine and Why Does Sticking Out In Back Harm? show how slouching so that you increase the inward curve in the lower spine (increase the lordosis so that it is no longer neutral spine) pinches the lower back under the weight of the upper body. Both also show what neutral spine looks like compared to lordotic.


The upper body should be upright (vertical) and the hip level to be in neutral spine. Drawing 2, with x-ray, shows what hyperlordosis looks like when the front of the hip tilts down and the upper body leans backward. This is not the normal curve - it is too much. The back of the spine gets pinched and pressured.


I found that hyperlordosis is not caused by a pregnant belly or beer belly or carrying groceries or backpacks. The over-arching (hyperlordosis) is not unchangeable anatomy. It is leaning back to offset the load in front.

Note the same over-arching occurring with the overhead lift in drawing 3, below left.

Overarched spine position is something that you can decide whether to allow or not. You can easily use your muscles to prevent hyperlordosis and hold you in healthy upright position.


Try it for yourself:

  1. Stand up and pick up your chair (bend right to pick it up for more exercise and back injury prevention).
  2. Hold the chair like any package in front, or on your hip, and notice if you lean back to shift the weight off your muscles (make it easier). Where does the weight shift to? On to your lower spine.
  3. Instead, stand straight. You will get free, built-in healthful exercise that protects your spine.

When carrying or lifting any load in front, from groceries, to a chair, to a pregnancy, or a baby on your hip, don't lean back to offset the load. To stop the arching and the lower back pain that results, tuck your hips under you as if doing a small abdominal crunch standing up until you are straight, without rounding forward. Don't over-tuck, tighten up, round your shoulders, or lean forward or backward. Just stand straight. When you tuck properly by moving your spine (not by tightening anything) the too-large arch will lessen to normal, and pressure in your lower back from the arching should immediately disappear.

The pelvic tilt to tuck the spine to restore an overly arched lower back to neutral spine was introduced in Throw a Stronger Punch (or Push a Car or Stroller) Using This Back Pain Reduction Technique and Healthier Carrying - Get Free Ab Exercise and Stop Pain.

Don't overarch or lean the upper body backward while you stand and carry - center and right-hand figures in the drawing at left. That is the missing link. Stand upright in neutral spine - left hand figure. There is a small lower spine curve, not a large one, and the lower spine is not pinched and folding backward, which squashes the soft tissue, discs, and vertebral joints called facets.

I have heard argument that nine months is too long to expect someone to think about their spine, and the muscles get tired. As they say in computers, "that's not a bug, that's a feature." It's good news that you get a free core muscle workout and free back pain prevention. Pregnancy (and any weight lifting) is a key time to have that.


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Drawing of Backman!™ © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan
x-ray courtesy of Orthopedic Technology


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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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