July 20, 2017
While many women experience back pain while pregnant, there’s also a high probability that they may continue to experience back pain after giving birth. Dr. Siri Smith, one the chiropractors in our office, has helped many women feel like themselves again after childbirth.
“When you are pregnant, the area around your abdominal muscles weakens and the extra weight you are bearing causes a change in your posture. This puts a tremendous strain on your back,” Smith says. “So even after you’ve given birth, you can still experience back pain until you regain the strength and tone in the muscles surrounding your back.”
In addition, taking care of your newborn can exacerbate back issues. New mothers (and fathers!) should take extra care to lift their baby by bending at the knees and maintaining good posture. When feeding, moms should avoid straining their necks. Baby carriers where the weight of the child is evenly distributed on the front of the body can help promote good posture and avoid added strain.
The sooner after giving birth you can safely start with gentle exercise, the better for reclaiming a pain-free back. Of course, check with your doctor to make sure you are able to exercise. It’s commonly recommended for women who have undergone a cesarean section to not exercise for six to eight weeks following birth. “New mothers can start with gentle exercises to strengthen their back and abdominal muscles,” says Dr. Smith, “but start slowly and listen to your body.”
A good place to begin is with belly breathing, where you actively inhale and exhale allowing your breath to be as deep as possible. You can do this anywhere and it’s an excellent way to prime your post-birth body for more complex maneuvers.
Another basic move to help you get back to form is the tried-and-true Kegel exercise. Contract your pelvic muscles like your trying to stop peeing and release.
The pelvic tilt is a basic movement that is quite effective for post-partum recovery as well. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Tuck your pelvis under and draw in your abdominal muscle while squeezing your glutes. Hold for five seconds and repeat to a rep count you feel comfortable with. It’s OK if you can only hold any of these exercises for a very short amount of time at first.
Once you feel confident with the pelvic tilt, you can add a pelvic bridge, where you begin like you are doing a pelvic tilt, but slowly raise your hips off the ground while keeping the spine aligned. Do everything slowly and in this instance, you can hold the top position for five seconds or more if you need an additional challenge.
My favorite exercise, however, is the plank. It strengthens your abs and tones your entire body. It is the single best core exercise and improves posture too! Try to hold for 60 seconds.
You can also incorporate simple stretches and yoga poses into your daily routine. Just make sure not to push yourself too much and listen to your body. Don’t force anything that feels uncomfortable.
Challenging yourself to reengage with exercise post-partum helps combat exhaustion, lifts your mood and helps you gain more strength for taking care of your new baby. Enjoy this precious time in your life and keep moving so that back pain doesn’t take over.