In clinic I have seen an increased number of new (and returning) parents with back pain, this is no coincidence as it is common for mums (and Dads) to develop back pain from lifting, carrying and moving their baby or child.
When you become a parent your focus changes from you to your child. Caring for your child becomes your life, however caring for your ever growing baby/child can put added strain on your body. Many parents don’t have the chance, or as I can remember the mental capacity due to tiredness, to think about the positions that they are putting the bodies into, these positions become repetitive as that is the easiest way to feed, carry and care for your child. These repetitive positions/stresses can cause a repetitive strain injury (RSI).
In effect you are lifting, carrying and moving an ever increasing weight several times a day. If you were in a gym environment you would lift weight with good technique and gradually increase the weight as your muscles develop and get stronger, BUT, unlike the gym environment your baby/child can wriggle and moving putting your body into awkward and unfamiliar positions therefore causing injury. A prime example of this is carrying your child on your hip.
What Can I Do To Help?
Well there are a number of things that you can do to help yourself:
#1 Seek advice from a professional such as an Osteopath. Osteopaths use a variety of techniques such as mobilisation, massage, manipulation and give advice on appropriate exercises to help relieve your pain.
#2 Alternate the hip you chose to balance your child on. Don’t always use the same side as your body becomes unbalanced and this causes an increased chance of injury.
#3 Mild or moderate back pain may respond favourably to over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Talk with your doctor if your pain does not improve; prescription-strength pain relievers or muscle relaxants may be appropriate in some cases. Inform your doctor if you are breastfeeding so she can prescribe a medication that is safe for your baby.
#4 Ice or heat packs can help reduce back pain. Soaking in a hot bath may also provide relief. If you had a c-section birth, make sure your doctor has given you the go-ahead to resume tub baths.
#5 Don't try to return to normal activity too quickly after your baby is born. It isn't easy to find time to rest when you are caring for an infant. A little self-care, however, can help your household run more smoothly. Women should remember that shifting hormone levels in late pregnancy cause ligaments and joints to relax; these areas remain more flexible even in the weeks after birth and are more prone to injury.
#6 Try to avoid standing for long periods because this puts extra pressure on your back. If you need to stand, rest one foot on a raised surface such as a stool. Use a footstool to elevate your feet while sitting.
#7 Use proper body mechanics when lifting your baby and other objects. The proper technique is to use your legs instead of your back. Do not bend from the waist. Instead, squat down by bending your knees and use your legs to lift. You may be lifting many heavy, unfamiliar objects, such as car seats and strollers. Move slowly and pay attention to your lifting technique to avoid injury.
#8 Keep your back straight while breastfeeding and raise your baby to the breast. Do not lean over to bring the breast down to your baby. Sit in a chair with a firm back and use pillows to aid in proper positioning. This may take some time to learn; a lactation consultant can help you assess discomfort and make recommendations for different feeding positions.
#9 Bring your baby close to your chest before lifting. Back injuries can occur if you pick him up with your arms outstretched or while twisting or turning to the side.
#10 An exercise program can help you build the muscles that support your back. Get your doctor's permission before beginning any new exercise regimen. Start with gentle exercises, such as pelvic tilts and a few minutes of mild stretching.
#11 Exercises to rebuild muscles to improve your posture and help you avoid back pain. Your abdominal muscles provide critical support to your spine back muscles. During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles may weaken or separate. In a c-section birth, an incision is made through the muscle layers of the abdomen.
#12 A front-pack style carrier is helpful while walking or accomplishing tasks around the house. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and observe good body mechanics. A carrier is a better alternative than carrying your baby on one hip, which strains your lower back muscles.
Are There Any Exercises or Movements I can do to Help?
Elbow Curls: From a seated or standing position, place your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing out to the sides. Press your elbows forward (left) until they touch in front of your face, then squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull your elbows back until they're behind your ears. Do up to 10 reps.
Cat-Camel Stretch: Get down on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips, neck in line with your spine. Slowly round your back by tightening your abs and tucking in your pelvis (above); hold for five seconds. Then allow your back to sag toward the floor as you lift your chest and head; hold for five seconds. Repeat the combination 10 times.
Hip Flexor Lunge: Come into a lunge position with your left leg forward, knee over your ankle, and your right knee on the floor. Press your hips forward so you feel a stretch in the front of your right thigh (but not so far that your left knee travels beyond your toes). Hold for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times, then switch legs and repeat.
Glute Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart, heels slightly in front of your knees. Rest your arms palms-down at your sides. Inhale and pull your belly button in toward your spine as you slowly curl your back off the floor, pressing your feet into the floor to engage your glutes (below). Exhale at the top and press your pelvis toward the ceiling. Hold for up to five seconds, then slowly roll down to starting position. Repeat two to four times.