Pregnancy Back Pain: Is It Normal? What Can You Do?

Should I stop exercising for the rest of pregnancy?

Total inactivity is not a cure for this condition. In fact, therapeutic movement can prevent it getting worse and sometimes resolve the condition. The women who end up debilitated by this condition are usually those who have followed incorrect advice to stop all therapeutic exercise, such as specialist pregnancy yoga or pilates by a trained pregnancy specialist. These teachers should know and recognise the condition and provide adaptations and exercises that will quickly get you comfortable and mobile again. Beware any professional whose advice is based on theory and not hands-on experience. I have even heard of a midwife who recommends that pregnant women avoid exercise such as swimming and yoga altogether in order to prevent the condition: this is based on false ideas about the nature of back pain and SPD.

Total inactivity is not a cure for this condition. In fact, therapeutic movement can prevent it getting worse and sometimes resolve the condition.

What about swimming, walking, biking or other gym exercise?

While you are in acute pain, it is wise to stop any of these momentarily. They can be contributing to asymmetry while the pelvis is unstable. However, both SI joint problems and SPD are idiosyncratic problems: you may find that after you have brought some stability and symmetry back into the pelvis, you are able to resume these activities. Many people are told to stop swimming, especially breaststroke, but this is based on a misunderstanding of the condition: it is not the width for the legs but asymmetry that is problematic. With judicious use of pregnancy yoga for my SI joint pain and SPD, I was able to continue swimming until the day I delivered in my fourth pregnancy!

Movements to avoid if you have lower back or pelvic pain:
  • One-legged movements (e.g. pushing something with your foot like a wheelie bin or basket).
  • Asymmetrical legs apart (e.g using legs on a pilates reformer, lunges with weights, kicking when swimming -use a buoy instead).
  • Spending a long time in a car seat or inappropriate desk chair.
  • Housework such as vacuuming and sweeping (yes, really!) if you are in acute pain.
Helpful movements:
  • Standing properly (mountain pose in yoga).
  • Using your core and pelvic floor to lift rather than moving things with one foot.
  • Symmetrical legs apart when sitting, rather than crossed legs.
  • Supported tailor pose (sitting with feet together and cushions under the knees).
  • Sitting on a swiss ball or rolled towel under your sit bones.

Gabriel is principal teacher of Auckland Pregnancy Yoga and has over 20 years of experience in using and teaching yoga for pregnancy and postnatal health. Her comprehensive, hands-on approach has been adapted from study with some of the world’s top yoga teachers, 10 year’s practice with the British Wheel of Yoga in London, and as teacher at Birthcare.

If you are interested in empowering yourself to a happier, more comfortable experience of pregnancy, birth and postnatal recovery, you can visit her website:

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  1. says: Jackie

    I wish I had this article years ago! It took me so long to realize why my hips were killing me. I almost fell over during my pregnancies because I would be walking and then suddenly my hip would just give out. It took me ages to figure out what worked. I am hyper flexible in that area as well which exacerbates the problem. Even though its been 4 years since my youngest, if I stop exercising regularly, doing yoga or move the wrong way, my back and hips hurt. So I try not to overdo it (because turns out not taking breaks during that day also doesn’t help) and when I have to sit for long periods of time, I have cushions specifically for not putting pressure on your tailbone. Any time I start to feel it come on, I immediately take a break and later do some yoga or stretching and it seems to cut it off before it gets worse. This article gives me a few more ideas of how to avoid the pain or what to do when it comes on! Thanks for sharing it!

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