It is common for all that the body will adapt to the load it is exposed to regardless of who you are or what you do.
The load that you expose yourself to during the day, at work or by physical training will form your posture and movement patterns. This is due to bodily adaptation.
It is no coincidence that pregnant women often suffer pain in the lumbar spine and pelvic area, that office workers get pain in the neck and shoulders or that soccer players strain their hamstrings.
Being pregnant results in an increasing load over a short period of time and the body must adapt to the changes. The body will choose the path of least resistance.
Namely; if one muscle becomes weak, then another one becomes strong. If one muscle becomes short, then another becomes long. For the pregnant woman, an example may be that the abdominal muscles become long and inactive as the stomach grows, while the back muscles become short and more active.
It is easy to understand that an athlete that loads/strains her body with high intensity training for two hours a day have to stretch and do certain rehab exercises to not hurt herself. On the contrary, not many people realize that a person who burdens their body with low intensity during a workday must also do some stretching and strengthening exercises to keep their body from being hurt. The sum of different loads on the body in these two examples may in the end of the day be the same – one in a few hours but intensely, the other one during the whole day but not that intensely.
Being pregnant means that the stomach will grow and the trunk muscles will extend to allow the fetus to fit in. It is of course a natural mechanism and nothing that we can influence. The rapid change in the body’s appearance makes us adjust our posture by moving the center of gravity backwards as the growing weight of the stomach is in front of the center of gravity. You start to lean back more and more the bigger the stomach gets. However, this can be avoided by being conscious about your posture and make sure to not do these harmful adjustments. In multiple cases, this customized posture continues after delivery since many women tend to carry the child in front of their bodies – continuing to lean backwards, making this a “new” unfavorable posture. In the long term this can lead to pain in the lumbar spine, pelvis and hips.
As physiotherapists we often meet women who have suffered pain within lumbar spine, pelvis and hips since the first pregnancy where this new, adjusted posture has been consolidated. This may have lasted for years without connecting the pain with pregnancy and changing posture patterns.
In the next article, we will focus on pregnant posture and how the muscles around the pelvis will adapt to the new posture.