One of the most common topics on the postpartum aches and pains list is lower back pain. Many new mothers suffer from constant or easily triggered back pain and/or spasms. It’s no mystery why new mothers are the perfect candidates for this annoying, debilitating condition. Check out our list of common factors and see how many you can put in the “that’s me” column.
• Baby carriers
• Taking car seats in and out of position
• Constant lifting of baby or toddler
• Excess driving or sitting for long durations
• Sleeping with baby
• Feeding baby (bottle or breast)
• Changing diapers at a changing table or bending over
• Lifting a heavy stroller in and out of the trunk
• Side, front, or back carrying baby/toddler
• Complications with epidural
• Pelvic displacement, pubic bone strain or fracture
• Intense fitness training too soon after or during pregnancy
• Abdominal injury-Diastasis Recti
Hormones still out of whack?
Over the course of your pregnancy, an increased production of the hormones; estrogen, progesterone and relaxin allowed for hypermobility. This is your body’s natural way of preparing the body for the many physical transformations that will take place: widening of the pelvis, exaggerated curvature in the lower back to support the weight of the tummy, widening of the ribcage and loosening of the muscles between the ribcage, relaxing of the abdominal muscles to allow for tummy growth.
In the postpartum months following delivery, your hormones will start to regulate and the process of regaining muscular function will begin. As the muscles and ligaments take on a harder, tighter, position you may notice that your body frame is not the same as it was before pregnancy. Your ribcage may be a bit too wide to zip up your old dress, your hips a little wide to button your jeans, and your shoes just a tad too small. As you muscles, tendons, and ligaments adjust to this new postural alignment, you will need to relearn some basic body mechanics. During this period your body is figuring out how to support your bone structure in a new way. Some muscles will need to work harder, some will need to lengthen and stretch, and in all this chaos you may develop muscular soreness. This, combined with everyday physical baby handling, is an enormous strain for the back muscles.
How can I feel better?
a) The stronger you get the faster your body will adjust. Start from the center, the part of your body that changed the most. Back pain and weak abdominals often go hand in hand. A safe and simple abdominal routine and a refresher course for the pelvic floor can slowly alleviate some back tension.
b) Arm and shoulder strengthening exercises with light weights may help in relieving some upper back and neck tension. Stretching or massage will give short term relief but if those muscles remain weak they will always be susceptible to tightness and tension.
c) Begin strengthening the legs and increasing your metabolism by adding a daily walk. Set a new goal each week starting with just a walk around the block and increasing your pace and distance as you start to feel more yourself.
d) Take a moment several times a day to stretch. Even if its two minutes of head circles to relieve some neck tension or reaching your arms up to the ceiling as high as you can. Stretching increases blood circulation and may relieve some of the stiffness in your joints as your postpartum body adjusts.
More serious conditions
If you had back problems before getting pregnant, it’s likely to be worse during and after pregnancy. It’s important to be aware of your degree of back pain. If it becomes chronic or intolerable, consult your physician ASAP.
If you feel a sharp specific ache along your spinal column, you may have complications from your epidural. Be aware of any numbing or tingling along the back/sides of your legs, or at the incision point.
Here are some disc conditions that may happen as a result of pregnancy or labor:
Lumbar Disc Herniation is the most common spinal disorder during pregnancy. Spinal disks are rubbery
pads between vertebrates (bones that make up the spinal column). Under strain, a disk’s inner material may swell, pushing through its tough outer membrane. The entire disk can become distorted or bulge in spots.
Creating conditions such as:
+ Ruptured, Herniated, Prolapsed. It’s not that the entire disc slips out, but rather that a crack in the tough outer shell of the disc allows the contents to come out. When this material comes into contact with the spinal nerves that run nearby, it can cause pain and alter nerve function.
+ Slipped Discs can protrude into the spinal column and press against the spinal nerves, hampering its
movement and causing pain.
+ Bulging Disc results from slight tears in the outermost fibers. These small tears can be painful for a short period of time.
+ Sciatica is nerve pain from the sciatic nerve that runs from the spine into the buttock and down the back of the leg. A common cause of sciatica is a ruptured disc.
The most common disc problem is Degenerative Disc Disease. This occurs when the nucleus loses water and small tears develop in it. The disc space narrows, and the body forms osteophytes (bone spurs) along the edges of the vertebrae.
What if my pain comes and goes?
Muscles aches, cramps, or spasms could be the result of improper body mechanics. This includes everyday activities; picking up the baby, feeding the baby, or carrying the baby for a long period of time. If you notice your back is sorer on certain days, try to take note of all the activities you did that day. You may be able to pin point exactly what’s setting it off. Simply re-arranging your standing position during the baby’s bath time routine may save you from weeks of back spasm recovery. Remember that hormonal fluctuations are still running wild up to a year after you deliver sometimes making your muscles and ligaments extremely loose and flexible or awkwardly tight and stiff. Modifying your actions throughout the day and being mindful of your movements will help enormously.
How to manage your back issues
If your back or neck flares up on occasion it’s best to have your “go to” therapy of choice. Whether it’s acupuncture, a chiropractor, or massage therapy. Someone you trust who can give immediate relief for a temporary condition.
If your condition is more chronic and flares more often than not, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. It may be signs of a serious condition that requires surgery.