The following is an interview with Esther Gokhale, creator of the Gokhale Method, a set of steps that center around healthy posture and movement to relieve back pain. Esther has spent years studying and researching integrative therapies, and after experienving crippling back pain after her first pregnancy and later back surgery, has dedicated her life's work to finding solutions to eliminate back pain. In this interview, Esther shares advice to address common back pain during pregnancy. To learn more about the Gokhale Method, check out the website at www.gokhalemethod.com.
How can back pain affect a woman's pregnancy? How did it affect yours? Back pain threatens one’s physical and emotional well-being at any time, but during pregnancy this effect is manifold worse. A pregnant woman knows she is vulnerable with looser ligaments (thanks to relaxin coursing through her bloodstream) and a heavier load. She may worry about how the pain will progress, have sleepless nights, and be unable to exercise. The pain may be inescapable (mine was). She may not want to take medication for fear of the effect on the baby (I didn’t). It’s hard to enjoy pregnancy, or life in general, with a back that is complaining strongly.
My back pain began in the ninth month of pregnancy with my first child. I was told that it might be caused by the baby sitting on a nerve and that it would likely dissipate after delivery. That reassured me somewhat (falsely, as it turned out). My main reaction to the pain, besides the physical discomfort, inability to exercise, and compromised sleep, was shock. I had been a yoga model in Mumbai, I had always been athletic and in good health - why did this happen to me? Especially when the pain did not go away, and in fact became much worse following childbirth, the pain undermined my confidence in my body. I had always assumed my body would be there for me on whatever adventures I embarked on; I had not anticipated being stumped by a healthy challenge. I felt broken in body and in spirit.
A lot of the conventional prescriptions for back pain don’t really work for pregnant women. Many medications and procedures are contraindicated during pregnancy; the standard “core strengthening” exercises like crunches are not advised during pregnancy; losing weight is not an option. Pregnant women are left with very few tools and techniques to help their back pain. I remember feeling as though I was expected to hold my nose and close my eyes until my pregnancy ended.