Many of the common pregnancy-induced pains and injuries (such as lower back pain, SI joint pain, diastasis recti, and pelvic floor dysfunction) are largely driven by the shifts in your alignment that pregnancy often causes. The concept of “neutral alignment” may not seem like the sexiest topic when it comes to pre and post natal exercise, but it’s one of the most critical — especially when it comes to preventing pains and injuries, and expediting your recovery. Let us explain…
What is Neutral Alignment?
When your body is in neutral, your skeletal structures do the work of holding your body upright, thereby alleviating excess stress and tension from being placed on your muscles. There are two criteria for getting your body in neutral alignment. Watch this video to learn how to find neutral alignment on your own body, and start practicing these three simple (but powerful) tips to begin moving in better neutral alignment throughout your day.
How Pregnancy Pulls You Out of Neutral
As we discussed in the video, pregnancy tends to pull you out of neutral alignment, like you see below.
Specifically, the following shifts tend to occur:
- Excessive Lower Back Arch: The growing belly tends to tilt the pelvis downward placing excess pressure on the lower back, abdominal wall, and pelvic floor muscles.
- Rounded shoulders: The weight of the growing breasts during pregnancy often pulls the shoulders forward into a rounded position, which can lead to upper back and neck pain. This is often exacerbated in the postpartum days with countless hours spent in a “triple-flexed” position (shoulders, elbows, wrists) feeding and holding baby.
Get In Neutral
You do NOT have to accept the alignment shifts described above changes as an inevitable part of pregnancy. Once you’re aware of the common shifts, it becomes much easier to address them. Follow these simple three steps below to help you get — and stay — in neutral.
1. Find Neutral: Take a few moments to find neutral on your own body, using the guidance in the video above and make note of those shifts you had to make to get your body in neutral. The more you practice proper neutral alignment, the more your body will adapt, and eventually you will naturally stand in better alignment without having to think about it.
2. Stay in Neutral During Your Workouts: This is important for any individual, but especially important during pregnancy to avoid excess pressure on the core muscles. The movements below are examples of when we often see that excessive lower back arch, especially during pregnancy. To address, think of closing your rib cage or tipping your pelvis upward a bit (somewhat like tucking your butt, but we don’t want you to go too far in the other direction). There should be a very slight curvature in the lower back, but nowhere near what you see below:
It’s also important to avoid going in the opposite direction and rounding the spine, as this also places excessive pressure on the core muscles, such as in the movements below. Remember to think of that nice vertical line from ears-shoulders-hips and try to keep your torso in that:
3. Stay in Neutral in Your Daily Life: Even if you go to the gym for an hour and do everything in perfect form, how you move in the other 16+ hours in your day can have an even greater impact. For starters, focus on the three tips described in the video:
- Bending Over
- Getting Out of Bed
Are you a professional interested in working with pre and postnatal women? Explore our education to become a Pre/Postnatal Performance Training Specialist.