Back pain for new mothers: How osteopathy can help

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Nicola Sturzaker of Streatham Village Osteopaths on how being a new mother can put new strains on the body.

Giving birth is not a painless experience – that much any mother knows, and I’ve got three children, so I’ll claim some knowledge on that. But what many forget, and new mothers often don’t quite realise, is that the physical challenge doesn’t stop with pregnancy and birth.

So while you might feel tender after giving birth, the strains on your body are only just beginning – up to 50% of pregnant woman endure some form of back pain during pregnancy – but it can return with a vengeance with childcare as you begin lifting and carrying your child. You may be lifting a 7lb baby at first, then 10lbs, then 20lbs, and so on. And lifting the child 50 or more times a day. You’re not just looking after your child, you’re weight training.

But you can lower the risk of back pain:

Carrying
It’s logical – carrying a weight around for long periods will takes it toll after a while. Your back and arms will get stronger, but you can’t avoid the strains altogether, not until they start to walk – and then you tend to replace the strain of lifting with the strain of stooping as you hover over your child’s tentative steps. But try and shift your child around as you carry them – which you’re likely to want to do naturally anyway, and if you develop a tendency to carry your baby on your hip as they get older, just be aware of how difficult that posture is and carry the child on both sides, alternately.

Lifting
Lifting your child from the playmat/cot/tiring grandparent is a simple mechanical issue – a lot of strain on your lower back exacerbated by the loss of tone in your stomach from having recently given birth.

You can help with both the tone and the mechanics if you tense your stomach as you bend down, which helps stabilise the back – and strengthens the stomach muscles. As with picking up all weights, bend at the knees too, where you can. And, if possible, try and get a cot where the sides drop so that you can make the angle at which you bend a little kinder.

Feeding
Whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, the position you adopt, in a process that can last hours, can lead to problems, not least in the middle area of your back. So make sure you have a feeding chair that is right for you (it’s not unlike getting your workstation right). Choose a chair you can sit in with your feet flat on the floor, with your bottom right back into the back of the chair to support your lower back. If the chair is deep enough to encourage slouching, then put a cushion behind your back to shorten the depth.

And don’t sit with your legs crossed: this will put a twist through your low back and pelvis, which, if you are still breastfeeding, are still vulnerable due to the high levels of a hormone known as relaxin. Holding your baby for long periods whilst feeding can put strain on your arms and shoulders so use a pillow under your baby to take some of the weight away from your arms.

And the rest
I could go on forever about the strains on your back of motherhood, but I don’t want to be downbeat – it is a fantastic time of your life, after all, so just remember:

Nappy changing: Get a nappy changing station at a decent height, so that you’re not stooping or bending
Bath time: Hunching over a bath is another strain. Far better, for your back and your bonding, to get in the bath too.
Car seats: Try to carry your baby in a car seat as little as possible. They are heavy and cumbersome so the trip from the car to the house is all you’ll want to do.
Pushing the pram: However tired you are, the pram isn’t something to lean on. Stand straight, stretch out when you push, you’ll feel better for it.

And if these little tips don’t work, come and see us. We’re always happy to help.

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