6676 4000

New mums and low back pain

My toddler comes running to me, her arms raised, urging me to pick her up. I’m in the middle of getting my son a snack and my older daughter is asking me to help her find the sticky tape. I’m totally distracted as I bend down to scoop up my daughter and bam: there goes my back.

Chances are, even reading about my latest run-in with back pain will make you wince. Because, if you’re a parent, it’s likely you’ve experienced back pain yourself.

Women’s health physiotherapist Melanie Platt agrees. “I would say there isn’t a new mum out there without some back pain – either upper or lower – in the early months after birth,” she says.

That pain usually starts in pregnancy, when an increase in the hormone relaxin causes your ligaments to relax. While that sounds soothing, it actually means your back isn’t as supported as usual, explains Platt.

And the weight you gain while pregnant doesn’t help matters, either. Platt says it causes your centre of gravity to shift forward, meaning more work for your poor lower back.

Your upper back doesn’t get off lightly, either; it can suffer from posture changes, along with possibly increasing upper body (mainly breast) size.

Unfortunately, your back woes don’t end once your baby arrives. In fact, they often get worse.

After all, after giving birth you’re then using your back to help lift, change, feed and play with your baby.

Add in the fact your stomach muscles have also been mightily disturbed over the last few months, and it’s easy to see why your core can’t support your back the way it normally can.

Platt says the most common reason mums come to her for treatment is for upper back pain, which usually occurs about two or three months after they’ve given birth. She says this usually relates to the position mums sit in when feeding.

She says lower back pain tends to develop a little down the track, as babies get heavier and mums spend their days carrying them.

So how can we help our backs?

“Ideally, I get my clients to exercise and become strong before or during pregnancy to prevent back pain,” Platt says.

Women’s health physiotherapist Fiona Rogers says when you’re pregnant you should try to “hug and lift your baby” when you’re changing positions (like getting up off the floor).

To do that, she says you need to ‘lift’ your pelvic floor and ‘hug’ your core by activating your deep abdominal muscles. She says this helps prevent lower back pain.

But even after giving birth there are lots of things you can do to help your back.

First things first: Platt says it’s time to “get moving”. She suggests starting with gentle walking.

Next, she says you need to work on your pelvic floor muscles and your deep core muscles. “I always advise pelvic floor as the first muscle you strengthen after birth, and you can start doing it 24 hours after delivery,” she says.

Then, it’s all about stretching. Platt says just 5-10 minutes twice a day of stretching is all you need.

But the “biggest thing” you can do for your achy-breaky back, says Platt, is change your posture.

“Sit up tall and use pillows to support your baby when feeding,” she says.

She also advises bending your knees and using your legs when you’re lifting your baby, and recommends keeping the handle of your pram at waist height, so you can keep your arms close to you as you push it.

If your back’s playing up, she advises doing some gentle stretches and applying heat to the sore area (see below for recommended stretches). She also advises seeing a physiotherapist; the earlier you get your back pain seen to, she says, the quicker it will settle.

While you may not think you have the time to do all those things, you probably also don’t have time to be plagued by a painful back.

So next time my toddler wants me to pick her up, I’m going to bend and lift properly. After all, I’ve got way more important things to do with my time than spend it complaining about my back. Like finding that damn sticky tape …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>