As an Osteopath, I see a lot of new mums experiencing lower back pain, or neck and shoulder pains due to the new tasks they face, especially after long bouts of feeding and repetitive lifting. The same hormones that made your ligaments lax during your pregnancy stay in your system as you breastfeed, and for up to 3-6 months after you stop. In order to make up for the ‘relaxed’ ligaments, your muscles have to do more work. Coupled with the fact that you’re tired from all the disturbed sleeping and lack of exercise, it’s easy to see why your back feels sore and tight.

At a time like this, it’s easy to hurt yourself. However, a few small tips can really reduce your risk of injury. You can’t really change the amount of lifting you do, but you can change how you lift, which goes a long way in reducing the likelihood of hurting yourself.

woman's spine

Some guidelines for lifting:

  • When lifting you should avoid combining movements, like bending and twisting at the same time.
  • Wherever possible try to lift from a front on position.
  • Your back is weaker when you are holding things a long way away from you, so at all times keep your baby or bags as close to you as possible.

Some guidelines for stretching:

  • Stretches should be gradual and gentle.
  • Hold each stretch in a static position for 10-15 seconds, allowing the muscle to lengthen slowly.
  • Stretch only to the point of mild discomfort. If a stretch is painful, you are pushing too hard.
  • Avoid stretches to the point where numbness or a tingling sensation is felt.
  • Don’t rush through the stretching routine, take a few minutes out to relax and give your muscles a rest.

Finally, when feeding, or carrying a baby on your hip, try to change position as much as possible. The longer you are in one position the more your muscles will fatigue, which can lead to a strain. Keeping in mind all these little changes and ensuring they can make a big difference to your health.

Below listed are my top three stretches for a new mum. New dads can give it a try too!

Stretch 1 (see above pic): Lay on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees. Let your knees fall to the right, hold for 10 seconds, then roll them to the left and hold there for 10 seconds. Repeat three times each side.

Stretch 2 (see above pic): Lay on your back and hug your left knee to your chest for 10 seconds, then hug your right knee to your chest for 10 seconds. Repeat three times each side.

Stretch 3 (see above pic): Fold a towel in half lengthwise and roll it up. Place the towel horizontally across your back just under the level of your shoulder blades. Lay on the towel on a reasonably firm surface with a pillow under your head for 30-60 seconds to start, building up to as much as 5 minutes. Keep stretching and be aware of your posture to keep those aches and strains at bay!

This article is contributed by Christopher Jones.

Christopher Jones (Doctor of Osteopathy, Australia) is a published author on the treatment of pelvic pain during pregnancy and specialises in the treatment of children. For more information, visit his website.

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