Beating the Pregnancy Backache Blues

Congratulations mom-to-be!!! You are building a human being! But while your body's working overtime to create your new little bundle of joy--your back and neck might be paying the price. Here’s why:

Back Pain during Pregnancy

Ask anyone who has gone through a pregnancy, and they can tell you about the aches and pains that goes along with it, especially back trouble. The good news is this: most back pain during pregnancy is from a strain on the back muscle, not injury or damage to the vertebrae. 

However, there are still a lot of reasons why you might be experiencing back pain during pregnancy:

●     Extra weight. All of a sudden you have extra weight pulling down on you that you’ve never had before. This can be uncomfortable and your back always suffers.

●     Postural changes. During pregnancy your uterus becomes bigger and heavier, and due to the weight, you bend forward.

●     Weak abdominal muscles. Before and after having a baby, your weakened abdominal muscles make you more prone to injury as you exercise and walk.

●     Blame it on the hormones. During pregnancy, the hormones in a pregnant woman’s body are rapidly shifting. Relaxing, a hormone released in a pregnant woman’s body that helps her pelvis prepare for birth, also affects joints and ligaments. If the ligaments become too flexible, this can lead to injury.

Back Pain After the Baby is Born

After the baby is born, you still have a whole host of issues with numerous hormones and weakened abdominal muscles. But then you get to add in the fun new challenge of what we’d call the “baby juggle.”

New moms are always up for risk of injury because their hands are not only figuratively, but literally full. They are hauling diaper bags, car seats, baby carriers, and most of this while holding a baby at the same time. Most of these baby supplies are clunky, and have to be held in unusual ways.

Additionally, the physical things new moms do, such as bending over to change and pick up the baby, strapping the baby in and out of a car seat, and nursing in the middle of the night are all new and usually occur at odd angles. New moms don’t take the time to think about how they are holding themselves. There are more important things to focus on!

What should new moms do to prevent and alleviate back pain?

A lot of new moms are too exhausted to think about exercise but when they’re ready we want to encourage them to think about the healthy behaviors they can do to keep their spines healthy.

Moms-to-be and new moms can focus on the way they are holding their babies and can incorporate gentle, easy stretches that will help preserve the health of your spine. You can think about these as extra “insurance” that you will be in good physical condition to take care of your little one. 

A few of our favorite suggestions:

●     Do not bend from the waist to pick up your baby. (This is a great reminder to everyone, not just new moms!) Always try to use your legs and squat to help you pick up your baby from the crib, the car seat, or to lift your baby on and off the changing table.

●     Don’t hunch over while breastfeeding. Whether you are sitting in bed or in a chair, prop yourself up with a pillow so you maintain good posture.  The more you allow your shoulders to round forward, the more likely you are to hurt your back. You might even prop your foot up on a small stool to help you keep nicely aligned.

●     Use a baby carrier--but research it first! Baby carriers can be a great help in holding your little one while getting things done, but you also need to make sure that whatever baby wearing technique you are using is optimized for the health of your back. Avoid slings, and look for carriers that equally distribute the weight of your baby by having a belt around your waist, and two wide, supportive straps. 

Back Injury During Pregnancy

If you are feeling the normal aches and pains of pregnancy, we suggest heat and ice, gentle stretches, and pre-natal massage. If you are pregnant, and you feel you have injured yourself more severely, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. There are certain things that you can do to help injuries, but we don’t want you addressing things on your own. The good news is that even if you do injure yourself, such as herniating a disc, there is often absolutely no threat to the baby, and there are easy resolutions to the pain.

Dr. Donald Hope