Babies and Back Pain: How to Heal Your Back Postpartum
If you've ever thought to yourself, "my back started getting bad after I had my baby", you aren't alone. Most women come into the postpartum period with back, hip or tail bone pain and it's easy to see why. From shifts of hormones to shifts in your center of gravity, from muscular imbalances forming to carrying a new little baby in your stomach and then in your arms, pain and dysfunction in the body are nearly inevitable.
If you have dealt with back or pelvic pain after having a child, worry not! There are simple solutions to fix this problem for good.
Before we talk solutions, it's important to understand the problem. When we are pregnant, we have a hormone released called Relaxin to loosen our ligaments and prepare us for child birth. We also have this hormone when we are not pregnant, and it is heightened to its peak within approximately 14 days of ovulation, which is one of the reasons why we see inflammation in correlation with our cycles.
When our ligaments are loose, this allows for joints and vertebrae to destabilize and muscular imbalances to form more easily. We also have an additional load placed onto our bodies while carrying a baby and this causes us to shift our center of gravity. The result is typically a tilted pelvis, where the abdominals lengthen, the load is placed on the back and the hips get tight. Pelvic rotations also often occur, where the back and hips get tighter on one side and it pulls one hip forward, causing one hip to be higher than the other.
How Long Does This Last?
When I say postpartum, what comes to mind? 3 months, 6 months, or more? When I'm talking about pain coming in the postpartum "phase", I mean that it can occur and continue at any point after you have your baby.
Many of the clients that come to me have been dealing with postpartum back pain for a decade or more, with little to no improvement. Often times, it gets worse the longer that we struggle with this. So how do you fix this achey problem?
The first thing that we'll want to do is assess and confirm that you actually have a pelvic tilt or rotation. I would recommend contacting me here or to determine if this is happening in your body. After concluding that you do in fact have a pelvic tilt or rotation putting compression onto your lower back, we will want to correct the muscular imbalances. Here are ways that you can do that.
Self Myofascial Release
Self myofascial release is a specialized process where we break up fascia, adhesions and knots and bring blood flow and healing to the tight and overactive muscles. It also causes a nervous system reaction called an Autogenic Inhibition to take place which teaches those muscles that they aren't supposed to over fire and are allowed to be relaxed.
We will specifically want to do this type of release for your back, hips and quads among other over active muscles.
Inner Abdominal Unit Activation
This is perhaps the most important thing that you can do when experiencing postpartum back pain. Your Inner Abdominal Unit includes your Transverse Abdominis (stabilizes the spine and acts as a corset for the abdomen), Inner Obliques, Pelvic Floor and Diaphragm among other small muscles/fibers. When pregnant, the inner abdominals lengthen and naturally loose connectivity. They separate and the hips and back learn that they have to take over to carry the body. Here is a little glimpse into how the Inner Abdominal Unit works.
If your Diaphragm isn't activating and expanding properly, your Pelvic Floor gets tight and doesn't know how to relax. If your Pelvic Floor doesn't know how to relax, the Hip Flexors get tight and the Transverse Abdominis forgets how to stabilize your spine. If your spine isn't stabilized, the vertebrae get compressed and chronic pain steps in. It all works together to cause dysfunction, creating a real 'pain in the back' type of problem. *Insert polite laugh at my cheesy pun here.*
We will want to teach these muscles to properly activate through diaphragmatic breathing, taking slow belly breaths as we relax the pelvic floor. We will then want to activate the Transverse Abdominis by exhaling and squeezing the belly button in towards the spine. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.
So many people think that they are doing glute activation by doing glute exercises. But usually if we are dealing with a pelvic tilt, the opposite is true. When we have muscular imbalances, the body will always find the easiest way to accomplish a movement as a means to reserve energy. So if you are doing a glute exercise, your back, hips, hamstrings and quads will most likely try to take over. The way that we correct this is by making small adjustments and generally using less range of motion so that we can 'feel' the movement in the right location.
My favorite exercise that I recommend to mommas with back pain is hip bridges. This is where you lay down on the floor, plant your feet on the ground under your knees and bridge your hips towards the sky. The only place that you want to feel this exercise is in your glutes. If you feel this anywhere else, it is important to adjust the movement accordingly. I'll take the mystery out this: we don't want to feel these in the back at all!
Reach Out for Support
If you can relate to any of this, you are not alone. Most people who I work with have tried "everything" and nothing has worked. I want you to know that pain relief is possible and it is accessible. Reach out for support and know that there are ways that we can actually FIX this problem!