I chat to mums on a daily basis; current clients, new clients, friends and those I meet and somehow strike up a conversation with. I’m always surprised by the amount of women who talk to me about the constant back pain they experience. Often, it’s upper back/neck pain or lower backache that has been around since the day they fell pregnant. Many of these women seem resigned to it as a normal consequence of having a child. They seem to view it as something they simply have to live with. I am no doctor, and I can by no means diagnose your specific back pain through an article; however, I can give you some tips that might just help relieve your aching back and show you that it doesn’t have to come hand-in-hand with motherhood.
Five things you can do to help relieve backache:
1. Strengthen your natural corset
Your tummy muscles are made up of three layers: the rectus abdominis or ‘six pack’ muscles, internal and external obliques (responsible for twisting movements), and your transverse abdominis or ‘core’ muscles (a corset-type muscle that keeps you standing upright and protects your spine). These ‘core’ muscles are often relaxed during pregnancy, and it is important to re-learn how to switch on and strengthen them whilst giving your external muscles a rest. Many people think that by tensing their stomach they are activating their core when, in reality, the muscles we want to switch on may be being lazy beneath the stronger outer muscles. You have to build the foundations; otherwise, eventually, the ‘pretty house’ will crumble.
2. Stretch the front and strengthen the back
As mums we spend a lot of time in a forward posture; shoulders hunched and chest concave – think back to pregnancy when more weight was distributed towards the front of your body. Then comes breastfeeding and cradling your new baby. It doesn’t stop as they get bigger either – they just get heavier! To look after your upper back, you need to strengthen the mid trapezius (the bits between your shoulder blades), learn to relax your upper traps and stretch out the chest muscles. These muscles are strengthened during most ‘rowing’ or ‘cobra’ exercises, and you can stretch your chest by simply clasping your hands behind your back and pushing your chest forward.
3. Think sumo
It’s not always easy to remember, but it is important to be mindful of the way you reach down and pick up your child (even when they’re being very demanding). Scooping your child up from the floor using a sumo squat with good form will help you keep your back straight and put the emphasis on your legs to bring you both upright. A lot of injuries come from picking up a crying child in a hurry from a strange angle – be aware.
4. Train in resistance as well as cardio
New mums often walk and walk and walk… This is great for staying active and often effective for settling grumpy babies, but it is important to strengthen your body, too. Babies get bigger and heavier so your whole body must get stronger in order to handle their demands. If you are weak in general you leave yourself susceptible to injuries caused by simple everyday activities and, unfortunately, it is often the back that cops it. Build up strength in every muscle in your body and your back will thank you.
We carry much of our tension and stress in our upper traps, neck and shoulders. Add to this the constant carrying, leaning forwards and often-hectic pace we mums run at, and you are looking at endless neck aches, headaches and shoulder pain. Learn some simple neck stretches to help loosen and relax, escape for some ‘mummy’ time and treat yourself to a massage, or recruit your partner or friend to give you a neck rub. You could even form a massage train at your next mothers group! Take the time out to look after yourself. You will feel much better for it and you will have the strength and energy to look after your loved ones. Your needs are important – as I always say a happy and healthy mum = happy and healthy baby.