Baby Steps – Why Is My Back Killing Me?
Ask ten different women with new babies if their back hurts, and four of them will say yes. But those four may be hurting in four different places! During pregnancy our bodies change to accommodate our growing babies. For years, common wisdom said this was due to increased lordosis – our spines curved more. Recent studies show, thought, that it’s actually the changes in our center of gravity that give us back problems. This makes sense when you realize that a ten pound weight, carried properly, puts ten pounds of weight pressure on us. But a ten pound weight carried incorrectly may place 100 pounds of pressure on our backs!
The Rules for Postpartum
Always bend from the knees, not the back.
- Adjust the height of changing table, crib and bathing area to be high enough so you don’t need to bend over.
- Carry baby in the center of the chest rather than on a hip or over one shoulder.
- When changing baby, kneel to lower body rather than bending from the hips.
- If you have significant back pain at your six-week postpartum checkup, ask your physician about a referral for a physical therapy evaluation.
- When nursing, keep arms supported to take stress off upper back and shoulders. Hold baby as close as possible. And put your feet up to take stress off your lower back! Relax back onto your sacrum so you are “laid back” a bit as you nurse.
Are you ready for crunches?
Some women need to “re-zip” their abs before going back to ab work postpartum. Here’s how to determine if you’re unzipped!
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
- Place the fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, just above your belly button.
- Inhale, then exhale, and as you do, lift your head and shoulders off the floor and slide your right hand up your thigh toward your knee. This will make your abdominal muscles tighten, and you should be able to feel a gap between the two edges of the muscles. If the gap is three or more finger widths, you can gently begin to strengthen your abdominal muscles with pelvic tilts and leg slides. You can also hold onto either side of a towel and “splint” while you bring your head up to look at your knees. Once the gap narrows to only one or two finger widths, you can start doing crunches.
Cat Back Stretch (to stretch your entire back). Get down on all fours and flatten your back so your spine is aligned from your neck to your tailbone. Now arch your back slowly, starting at the tailbone and stretching up through your shoulder blades. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax to the neutral starting position. Repeat 5 times.
Child Stretch (entire back, emphasis on lower spine). From your all fours position, relax back onto your thighs, lower legs tucked underneath. Don’t push – this should feel like a good stretch. Use a pillow under your upper body if that feels best. Rest for a count of five or longer, then come back to your beginning cat position. Repeat five times.
Now some sitting stretches. Upper back and neck!
Be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife if you have concerns. Our Physical Therapy department here at BMH can really help too.
Here’s some ideas for a little belly dance stretch. Three minutes a day to beautiful posture!
- Start with a CD using lively music that you like very much. It doesn’t have to be Middle Eastern music. Anything brisk with a strong beat that makes you want to get up and dance will do. Pick a song that’s about 3-5 minutes long.
- As it plays, walk briskly around the room, swaying your hips side to side.
- Gracefully bring your arms out to each side, outstretched
- Raise your arms into a proud “V” pointing diagonally on each side toward the sky. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and not raised into a shrug position.
- Raise both hands directly overhead and relax the elbows just a little so you have a soft curve. Again, make sure your shoulders are still relaxed.
- Keeping one arm overhead, drop the other to an outstretched position so that your arms form a letter “L”.
- Do the letter “L” on the other side.
- Make up additional arm poses that you think might look graceful.
- Continue walking around the room, swaying your hips in time to the music, experimenting with these different arm variations until the song ends.