Post-pregnancy months are critical for back health, warns leading osteopath
New mums risk chronic long-term back pain if they ignore niggling aches and pains in the 12 months after giving birth, warns a leading London-based osteopath.
Mr Michael Fatica, lead consultant osteopath at The Mayfair Clinic, London, says new mums are especially vulnerable to back injury in the first weeks and months after giving birth, and this is exacerbated by the need to quickly resume everyday activities, with the addition of holding a new-born.
During the immediate post-pregnancy period, new mums tend to be impatient to resume their regular activities,” says Mr Fatica. “When they’re frequently holding a baby at the same time, they cause the spine to bend sideways to counter the constantly growing weight. Although in isolation these are not bad movements, the repetitive daily nature of them during nine months or longer can have lasting, and damaging repercussions on a mother’s back and spine.
The stress and trauma caused to the body during pregnancy and child birth, particularly following a ‘C’ section, weakens the back muscles. However, the natural instinct of new mums is often to ignore their own ailments while they fully focus on their baby.
While this is understandable, Mr Fatica says some simple, daily changes should be adopted which can reduce strain to the back.
New mums should:
- Hold their baby close to their centre rather than with their arms stretched out in front
- Try to limit the time the baby is positioned on their hips
- Try to sit-down when holding their baby for long periods of time
- Take care with car seats – forward bending and twisting is the easiest way to injure a lower back disc
- Use baby carriers sparingly as they reduce the awareness of the heavy weight being carried, which results in bad posture
Mr Fatica is also keen to highlight the “sway back” posture that is often adopted by pregnant women in the later stages of pregnancy and causes considerable stress on the lower back. This is when the woman pushes her tummy forwards and leans backwards to counterbalance – a similar posture is adopted when carrying a heavy box. This posture only serves to aggravate an already weakened back and can lead to neck pain, as a result of the head protruding forwards as a counterbalance, in addition to frequent headaches and general discomfort in the shoulder area.
Mr Fatica continues: “Exercise is so important for helping pregnant women to maintain good physical strength to support the baby. The muscles are being put under immense stress, so it’s vital the body is in the best shape possible.”
Some simple exercises can be performed two to three times daily to alleviate back pain during and post-pregnancy:
- Stand against a wall for a few moments with your heels, bottom, middle back and head touching the wall to “reset your posture”. This is particularly beneficial in the latter stages of pregnancy.
- Lie on your back and slowly flatten the arch in your back rhythmically 10-20 times (should take approximately 60 to 90 seconds)
- Go swimming – even having a “paddle” in the pool will help take the pressure of your back, but the breast-stroke should be avoided.
- For pregnant women only – sleep on your side and support your neck with the right amount of pillows to keep your neck straight, not tilted to one side. A lot of women know how to take care of the baby bump by supporting the tummy with pillows but often forget about their own spine.
“While back rehabilitation and treatment is often low down on a new mum’s list of priorities, the stress of childbirth can highlight and even worsen a pre-existing weakness in the lower back,” adds Mr Fatica. “It’s therefore important for new mums to see an osteopath or chiropractor to get their spine examined and treated properly early on, to avoid it developing into a chronic problem.”
The Mayfair Clinic, London, is one of the UK’s leading osteopathic clinics, providing patients with the very best osteopathic treatment available for back pain, neck pain and sciatica. It is also the only osteopathic clinic in the UK able to provide their unique combination of state-of-the-art technologies to treat back and neck pain. For more information visit themayfairclinic.com