Exercise Therapy Proven to Ease Pain in Expecting Mothers

For the majority of future mothers who experience mild to debilitating back pain during and after pregnancy, Lynnwood physical therapist Nancy Mitrano offers some encouraging news: 

Education and exercise therapy have proven effective in reducing back pain for most expecting mothers. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, a physical therapist-directed exercise regimen that focuses on the muscles around the spine and pelvic floor – a program that includes strength training, aerobic exercise and balance training – can greatly benefit the approximately 2.5 million women who experience lower-back pain related to pregnancy each year. 

“While some back discomfort is normal during pregnancy, the pain shouldn’t keep you from your usual daily activities,” said Mitranoowner of Impact Physical Therapy in Lynnwood. “If the pain or discomfort is such that it’s impeding your ability to live your life, a physical therapist can guide you toward exercises, advice and a personalize treatment program that offers relief.” 

According to Mitrano, the added weight of pregnancy, coupled with the release of hormones that relax the ligaments in the pelvis, lead to strain in the hips, pelvis and lower-back. Diagnosing the exact cause of pain, however, is essential in determining the safest and most effective treatment paths for pregnant and postpartum moms. 

Following a thorough examination, a physical therapist may offer the following treatment options: 

Stabilization Exercises: As hormones relax the ligaments, stronger muscles can help stabilize the pelvis and lower-back. A physical therapist can teach women safe and effective exercises that specifically target the muscles in this region of the body – exercises that can often be performed at home. 

Stretching: Along with strength exercises, stretching the muscles around the hips, pelvic floor and back can also help relieve pain and discomfort. 

Aerobic Exercise: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests expecting moms exercise for 15 minutes three to four times per week, at a heart rate of 140 beats per minute. A physical therapist will help identify aerobic exercises, like walking, swimming, yoga, etc., that are both safe and effective. 

Other Options: A physical therapist may decide that other treatment options, such as manual therapy or braces, might be effective based on one’s specific diagnosis. 

“Movement is often key to relief, and as physical therapists, we not only treat expecting mothers, but we help them alter the way they perform everyday tasks in order to reduce pain,” Mitrano said. “We show patients how to improve posture and better manage their average daily activities, and we educate them on why such changes are effective.” 

Volunteering Benefits Seniors Physically & Mentally

For some older adults who live alone, life can become filled with instances of social isolation and loneliness.

Research shows social isolation can have adverse effects such as depression, reduced cognitive function, decreased activity, and many physical conditions.

For instance, we tend to see more instances of issues like high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity in people who perhaps aren’t as social as they used to be.

Why Be Social?

While it’s completely fine to be comfortable by yourself, it’s often beneficial both mentally and physically to make time for social interactions.

One great way to do this – especially this time of year – is to take advantage of community volunteer opportunities.

Studies have shown that volunteering is a great way for seniors to counter many of the effects of isolation and aging. Just getting out in a useful way to support a cause you believe in can benefit the mind and the body – from combatting loneliness to increasing levels of health and activity.

And, volunteering can take on many forms, regardless of age, health or physical limitations.

Some proven health benefits of volunteering include:

Improving Self-Esteem, Lowering Depression

Giving time to others can create a personal sense of accomplishment. When assisting others, the body releases dopamine in the brain, which has a positive effect on how people feel.

It is documented that volunteers also experience lower levels of depression.

Expanding Connections

Volunteers are surrounded by a community that’s attuned to helping – people willing to lend a hand when times get tough. And, they realize that safety nets go both ways: helping when asked and asking for help.

Combating Stress

According to a study by a Carnegie Mellon University doctoral student, volunteering reduces stress. In her study, 200 hours of volunteering per year correlated to lower blood pressure, and lower blood pressure correlated to better health outcomes.

Keeping the Mind Active

The same study speculated that mentally stimulating activities, like tutoring or helping with reading, contribute to maintaining memory and thinking skills that, in turn, reduces cognitive impairments.

Physical therapy services often work to complement these effects by working with seniors and others to keep their bodies volunteer ready.

And, in the end, once a person starts to realize all the physical, mental and social benefits of giving back to people and their communities, this can help motivate them to live healthier, more active lives. Physical therapists, then, are there to offer support that allows these efforts to extend into the long term.