Sarah Key's 7 best pregnancy exercises for lower back pain

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Spinal expert Sarah Key, author of 'The Back Sufferers' Bible' explains the best pregnancy exercises for lower back pain


1. Reverse Curl Ups

2. Legs Passing

3. Oblique Abdominal Floor Twists

4.  Spinal Decompression (The BackBlock Regime)

5. Squatting

6. Walking

7. Legs Up the Wall Relaxation


The exercises on this page are modifications of standard pre-natal exercises and pose no risk to your pregnancy. Even so, it is wise to check with your doctor before starting. 

1. 'Reverse curl ups' are knees to chin rather than chin to knees. They are particularly important if you have lower back pain during pregnancy as they strengthen the abdominals without putting pressure on the pelvic floor. You simply cannot over-do these exercises. In fact, it's a sign you are on the right track when a few days later, your tummy hurts to laugh. See these are the exercises below described in greater detail in the page best abs exercises. Do 15 reps.

Reverse Curl Ups
Reverse Curl Ups 2

2. The 'legs passing' exercise is a more dynamic way of strengthening the lower abdominals and pelvic floor, as they mimic the abdominal contraction required during walking. These exercises are highly sophisticated way of working all three layers of your abdominal wall. They are hard to do well as they require highly advanced motor skills. When doing them it's well to bear in mind that the core should be braced, or switched on to the same degree while walking. This is particularly important as you abdomen gets bigger and you start to waddle! Do 15 reps. 

Sarah Key's legs passing pregnancy  exercises
Legs passing exercise

3. Oblique Rotations.  Of the pregnancy exercises, this one is probably more effective after the birth, especially if you have suffered separation of the rectus abdominis muscles around the baby (diastasis recti).  Thobliques abdominal exercises, are a particularly effective at drawing in the lower abdominal wall and the sides of the waistline and getting your figure back sooner. You can read about all these abs exercises in more depth in the best exercises for lower abdominals. Do 5 reps each way.

oblique rotation exercise
spinal twist exercise

4. The BackBlock. And finally in the list of pregnancy exercises, none is more important than decompression for the lower back.

In position on the BackBlock, the traction and separation of the spinal segments relieves the compressive forces of the baby bearing down on the spinal base and provides almost instantaneous relief from back pain during pregnancy. The BackBlock will also help prevent sciatica developing after labour. Having a stronger set of abdominal muscles will make the birth easier. And generally speaking, having a stronger and more compliant spine will also make it easier to bend properly and get your life back after the pregnancy and birth.

Lying over the back block

Although lying over the BackBlock is the first essential of back pain relief during pregnancy, it may be less comfortable with the baby sliding up under the diaphragm as it gets closer to full term.  Remember, regular and effective back exercise during your pregnancy make it so much easier to deal with the difficult 12 months after the birth. The fitter you are the better you will handle it.  

Read Sarah's Books and Order the Back Block here.

5. Squatting is Natures' way of decompressing the base of the spine. It opens out the back of spinal interspaces and is spinal decompression that focuses on opening the facet joints. You need only stay down for a few moments to get the benefit. 

You will probably be aware that squatting is the posture of natural childbirth, so although it achieves effective vertebral separation, it also puts the baby in optimal alignment to the birth canal and brings considerable pressure to bear on the pelvic floor. For this reason, squatting should not be done beyond the 30th week of pregnancy. 


Squatting should never be done as an exercise if you have had signs of incompetence of the cervix at any stage of your pregnancy. Check this with your obstetrician.


Although the Back Pain Treatment Video Package is not specifically about exercises for the lower back during pregnancy it is full of valuable information about backs and prevention exercises for lower back pain during pregnancy. It also contains specific information about 'How to Safely Bend and Squat' all of which is critically important, both during pregnancy and the early months of motherhood when the spinal and pelvic ligaments are still weak. 

6. Walking regularly makes you feel alive and strong. As a daily exercise it is quite simply the best. Ideally you should walk for 30 minutes at least three times per week. But make sure you walk as lightly-and-briskly as you can as this will invoke all three layers of your abdominals and support the baby better.  In turn, the better supported baby will remove the pressure on the pelvic veins and allow a better return blood flow from the lower legs. 

7. Legs-Up-The-Wall Relaxation is a welcome respite for tired legs and achey back for any soon-to-be mother. It may not be possible to stay there too long in the final few days due to breathlessness from the pressure of the baby riding up under your diaphragm. However, this pregnancy exercise does several important things: it flattens out the lower spine to relieve the lower back, provides gentle traction on the lumbar nerve roots, relieves the constant loading on the pelvic floor and drains stale blood out of the bottom of the legs. With the arms over the head, interlacing the fingers and turning the palms away it also creates a welcome release through the thoracic spine and upper back. Stay there for up to 10 minutes if you can.  

Read more here about Sciatica and Pregnancy

Read more about Exercises for Sciatica During Pregnancy

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