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Preventing Postpartum Back Pain - Proper Lifting Mechanics

I wrote this article with Jillian (who is a Restorative Exercise Specialist and just awesome) for the fall issue of From Belly To Baby which is a free pre/postnatal mag that comes out every 3 months. I have always loved reading it - ever since I got to Ottawa with my pregnant belly. You can pick it up at some locations in Ottawa or read it online.
And because I like German efficiency, I will just publish it as a blog post.
Here we go!

You say: “I’m starting to get pain in my lower back“. 
Your  doctor/friend/neighbour replies: “Well, you are pregnant. That’s normal. It’s part of the the common aches and pains you get“. 

Pain during pregnancy – and postpartum -  is so common that we mistake the word common with the word  normal.  It is NOT normal.  Our bodies were made to be able to accommodate a pregnancy without aches and pains. Our bodies were also made to be able to lift things (think baby, diaper bag and groceries) without getting a spinal or sacroiliac joint injury. We just have to use our bodies the way they were designed to be used.

Most back injuries happen when we lift things, and new moms tend to lift heavy loads every day. Let’s look at proper lifting mechanics then!  But really the best time to learn proper lifting technique is before you even get pregnant. Don’t worry though, a lot of back pain can be alleviated and prevented by starting to lift correctly right now.

Lift with your butt and legs and keep your lumbar curve. The curve in your lower back is there to absorb loads we place on our spine – our yown body weight from standing and additional loads from lifting.  What we  usually think of as excessive lumbar curve actually comes from what happens further up the spine: from thrusting the rib cage forward.  By maintaining the curve in your lower back and drawing the rib cage down, you get your spine where it needs to be. Bend your knees, but don’t let them drift over your toes: keep your knees over your heels and stick out your butt. Not easy, but the more you stabilise your spine and carry loads with your legs, the happier your back will be.

Lifting While Twisting places much more stress on your lumbar spine and SI joint than lifting with your shoulders and chest in line with your knees and feet. For example, we tend to get the car seat out by facing the car with one side of our body. This ultimately results in an excessive load being placed on the spine from a twisty lift. Square yourself in front of whatever you are lifting and then lift as decribed above, loading your legs and stabilising your spine.

Lifting after C-section, if you have diastasis recti or a weak pelvic floor calls for a lot of caution. Your body’s mechanisms aren’t really working the way they should and the additional load from lifting can place dangerous pressure on your pelvic floor, abdominal wall or even diaphragm. You can control the pressure by learning to check in with your body. Do I feel pressure on my pelvic floor? Do I feel/see a bulge where my abdominal muscles should be? Avoid the activity if you can. If you can’t avoid it, apply the above tips for lifting. Try to use your deep abdominal muscles while you lift. You can counteract the pressure when you exhale and draw belly button towards the spine before you lift. Or sneeze. Or have a bowel movement.
 

not like this
more like this:
knees over heel, curve in lower back and butt out, rib cage up
 

Tips: You can reduce some heavy lifting by keeping the car seat in the car and just carrying the baby in your arms. It’s better for your back, a great upper body workout and it allows for the optimal spinal, muscular, and vestibular development of your baby.  Not to mention it’s bonus snuggle time for you and the babe!
When you lift an older child, you can save your back by just reaching under your child’s arm pits and lifting with your arms and shoulders.

The end!

 

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