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Post natal physiotherapy and pilates has shown to be very effective in decreasing the pain, instability and muscle weakness associated with pregnancy and giving birth.
Our pelvis may seem like quite a rigid and stable structure but it is in fact made up of 4 bones – our sacrum, coccyx and 2 ilia either side. During pregnancy, the change in hormones causes increased laxity of the ligaments supporting our pelvis in particular around our sacroiliac joint (at the back) and pubic symphysis (at the front). A hormone called relaxin is secreted in order to allow our pelvic bones to widen in preparation for childbirth. Following childbirth, women are often left feeling unstable around their pelvis, subsequently leading to lower back and sometimes hip pain. Besides a widening of our pelvis, our pelvic floor muscles are also stressed during pregnancy and child birth. This is due to increased weight on the pelvic floor in the latter months of pregnancy and the act of giving birth. Strength and elasticity of the pelvic floor muscles is altered. This in turn can sometimes lead to incontinence due to the inability of this muscle group to cope under increased pressure.
If you are not bouncing back after pregnancy as quickly as you had hoped, or having been experiencing increased pain, pilates is ideal in addressing the above issues which have caused this. Pilates helps create increased postural awareness and corrects common postural changes seen with pregnancy, e.g. increased lordosis (arch) of the lower back. Pilates also focuses on improving mobility of your thoracic spine. The thoracic spine often stiffens up during pregnancy as a result of increased pressure on our ribcage from the baby and the inability to move through normal range of motion in the late stages of pregnancy.
Pilates exercise encourage co-contraction of our core and pelvic floor muscles, while performing exercises in a neutral spine position. Improved strength of these muscle groups helps improve pelvic stability and decrease incontinence over time. Strengthening of glut muscles is also an important component of pilates, which also aids in improved pelvic stability – in particular around the sacroiliac joint.
The majority of beginner level pilates exercises are suitable for post natal mothers, provided you have been cleared to start exercising by your doctor. Even those who have suffered from separation of their abdominal muscles, can perform a number of pilates exercises without stressing or worsening this separation. In addition to the benefits listed about, pilates will also assist in improving breathing control and balance.
If you have been having ongoing problems with your pelvis, lower, upper back or even neck and shoulders post pregnancy, pilates may be a good place to start before getting back into more strenuous physical exercise. If you would like to have a free assessment, to see whether pilates is suitable for you, please contact us here. We run a number of classes, starting at beginners level.