As I deal with breastfeeding my now six-week-old baby whilst juggling my toddler I am reminded of the many aches and pains that the body can feel at this time post-pregnancy.
At Physiologix, we see certain injuries frequently from this period on over the next year:
There are some key things that you can do to improve these issues and be pain-free. I hope this helps you or someone you know who is looking after a young baby. And this applies as much to partners as it does to the main carer!!! We will look at:
- Shoulder tension/ Neck pain/ Headaches
- Wrist and Hand Pain
- Thoracic (mid back) Pain.
- Lower Back Pain
- Treatment Options
Shoulder tension/ Neck pain/ Headaches
Whether it is the stress of dealing with a baby that you can’t stop crying, or burping your child over your shoulder, or the carrying around and lifting, it is very hard not to hitch your shoulders up towards your ear as you do these things. However, this will result in a very tight neck and shoulders and very often result in headaches. Try hard to focus on relaxing and dropping your shoulders. Open your chest up and slightly draw your shoulders back so that you sit with better posture
Wrist and Hand Pain
Several movements remain a key issue with pain in this region. There is a tendency when feeding or holding the baby to tuck your wrist into a
bent position to try and support the baby - wrists prefer to work in a more relaxed straighter position, especially under load, which as your baby grows, it has to deal with. Try to relax your hand so you use more of your forearm to support the child. Use pillows when feeding to give your arms and shoulders a break whenever you are able.
Lifting your child. As you bounce your baby up and down many people overuse the wrist to do this movement versus the arm and shoulders. Try to keep your wrist neutral and avoid over moving your wrist up and down in the direction of your thumb and little finger
Pushing a pram. This often can cause pins and needles in the hand due to compression of the nerves as they pass across the front of the wrist. Vary your hand position to hold more at the side of the pram not always pushing in front of you. Try to avoid overextending your wrist as this can also increase the stretch across the area and nerve compression. Wrist braces can be a valuable addition to treatment in helping your recovery.
Thoracic (mid back) Pain.
If this is felt when standing, this is often due to throwing your hips forward and leaning your upper body back thus increasing the curve at this region backwards, when actually naturally the spine curves the other way. The muscles work too hard and become painful in their own right and joints in the area can also become problematic. Try to keep your weight a little more on your heels and slightly draw your lower abdominal/pelvic floor muscles in to help reduce how much you throw your hips forward.
When sitting, keep a pillow in your low back to support the natural curve of the low back, and try not to over-bend or over extend your upper back. Keep your shoulders relaxed and slightly drawn back, but don't overdo this as this is when you can end up loading up the back too much.
Lower Back Pain
This is an extremely complex area that can be problematic for so many reasons and really does require an assessment from a physiotherapist. It is essential that you make sure you are doing your pelvic floor strengthening exercises and core strengthening work when able. This has to be done carefully and with good guidance particularly if you underwent a Caesar or experienced a traumatic birth. At Physiologix we use ultrasound imaging to ensure we really do have the best muscle recruitment in the area.
Resting postures are easy to do something about:
When sitting support your back with a pillow and avoid slumping too much.
Don’t sit on a chair that is too low.
When standing try not to throw your hips forward and keep your weight a little bit more on your heels.
Try and keep yourself as active as possible doing walks wherever there may be time.
Make sure you check our last post in this series later in the week.
What are your treatment options when you have pain related to looking after a young bubba?
Understanding what your injury is and why it has occurred is key. Most injuries relate to overuse of something that eventually complains. Learning strategies on how to reduce this overuse is essential if you are to successfully reduce pain. Each of our last 3 posts into specific areas of pain we see in clients injured, secondary to caring for a young baby, include postural suggestions for managing the pain.....these can often be sufficient in getting rid of the pain completely - make sure you check out these posts if you missed them.
Muscularly, using a hot pack on an aching back or neck is always a winning formula. Releasing muscle tension especially around the neck and shoulders and back can really provide a lot of pain relief. You can try rolling on a Trigger point ball to release your own muscles. But if you aren’t quite hitting the mark yourself, coming in fo a massage can be a great starting point.
Of our extremely experienced Physiologix massage therapists Emma and Georgie are both mothers and know first hand how difficult this time can be. Peter is the proud dad of twins and has been heavily involved with them since birth so also has a great appreciation for how difficult this first year is.
Our highly experienced Physiologix physios will help diagnose and educate you about your problem. They will advise you on the best management strategies, the do’s and don’s, which exercises are best, and which to avoid (Dr google is full of a lot of “fake news” on what you should be doing!
Hands-on treatment is often required. Bracing or taping can be very useful in supporting injured structures, as well as helping position you where your body is meant to be thus reducing stress to the damaged area, and therefore pain.
Regaining general fitness and strength will also likely help - your physio will help you come up with an achievable plan that you can fit in around your time schedule and what you are able to commit to.
Put a little time back into you - keeping healthy at this challenging time helps reduce a lot of unnecessary hurt and upset, helping you cope through what can be an incredibly challenging time.