Back pain is a common problem for 99% of new mothers. Having just gone through the challenges of pregnancy, labour and sometimes C-section, women have already been challenged, both physically and emotionally before their little one even arrives. With all the awkward car seats, the extra luggage, the carrying, twisting, lifting and feeding that has to be done it’s no wonder that mothers backs are crying out for a bit of help.
An Osteopath can help repair and prevent further damage to the back but in the meantime here are ten tips to help minimise or even prevent back pain altogether.
1. Baby Carrying
Use a sling that holds your baby centrally and symmetrically across your front. Look for one with padded shoulder straps and a hip belt which helps distribute the weight evenly. When you don’t have a sling, alternate your carrying side to avoid strain patterns developing. Take a break from carrying and let others take the load whenever they are around to help. As your little one gets bigger, encourage them to move themselves as much as possible.
Sit in a supportive chair and use pillows to help your posture. A small pillow behind your lower back will help maintain its natural curve, and a cushion under the arm supporting your baby’s head will prevent strain in your arm and upper back. If you are breast-feeding use pillows to position your baby in an optimal feeding position, rather than trying to move your breast towards your baby.
3. Nappy Changing
Use a nappy-changing table or place the changing mat on top of a chest of drawers. Of course, you may need to adapt your set up when your baby shows signs of starting to roll! If you always change your baby’s nappy on the floor, your back will not thank you – or your knees for that matter.
Try to lift heavy items (eg car-seat with baby in it) by bending and straightening your knees, rather than bending forwards from your back with straight legs. Even better, if you have a companion with you, delegate.
This is probably the most important tip, but may feel the most difficult to find time for. Walking, swimming, gentle pilates and post-natal yoga are all excellent forms of exercise for new mums. Movement is so important for a healthy back. If you can’t make a regular class, consider getting a DVD, subscribing to an online course, youtube videos or just do a simple 10 min exercise routine at home. Exercise that gently strengthens the abdominal and core muscles and mobilise the spine are ideal.
Your body needs sleep and rest to rejuvenate and heal. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done with a new baby. Here are some suggestions that might help: getting your other half to do a night feed; napping in the day if/when your baby naps; temporarily sleeping in separate beds so you and your partner don’t wake each other if one gets up earlier; going to bed early.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help if it is offered. Many new mums feel they should be managing everything perfectly by themselves. This is an impossible feat and will probably end up breaking you physically and mentally.
If you have a cot that has adjustable heights, use the highest level until your baby can pull themselves up. Some cots have a side that you can slide up and down which can be useful to prevent straining your back.
Alternating hot and cold packs on sore areas have been shown to reduce pain and also increase the healing process via an improved blood supply. Take a warm pack and place it against the sore area for 3 minutes, then replace it with a cold pack (not frozen directly onto the skin) for 1 minute and repeat the process three times. This can be done as many times throughout the day as you need.
10. Get Professional Help
If these tips don’t resolve your back pain, seek help from a back pain specialist such as an osteopath. An osteopath will assess what is causing your pain and either use gentle hands-on techniques to relieve muscle and joint tension or refer on for further tests if necessary. Osteopaths will also advise on specific exercises and lifestyle adaptations to do at home.
Jonathan Wills is the Principal Osteopath at JWosteopathy (www.jwosteopathy.ie) which operates out of the Elbowroom in Stoneybatter. He holds a Masters Degree in Osteopathic medicine and has helped 1000’s of babies and also Mother’s with back pain in Dublin over the years. Why not make your appointment today to see how he can help you or your little one?
Jonathan Wills is the Principal Osteopath at JWosteopathy (www.jwosteopathy.ie) which operates out of the Elbowroom in Stoneybatter. He holds a Masters Degree in Osteopathic medicine and has helped 1000’s of babies and also Mother’s with back pain in Dublin over the years. Why not contact him to see how he can help you or your little one?