How to Avoid Back Pain as a Mom
It's kind of just there and you don't give it much consideration, until it starts giving you trouble. Then it's the only thing you can think about and every motion causes agony. What am I talking about? That wonderful part of your body that spans from your tailbone to that lovely head of yours. Your back.
As Moms we put a lot of strain on that poor spinal column. We lift heavy things like children, furniture, and pots of stew, stretch and twist to clean, bend over the hot stove to put supper on the table, and a myriad of other activities that all require the use and support of our back. But what happens when something gets strained, or worse, a nerve gets pinched, or a disc herniates. Then all those activities suddenly become dreaded and painful tasks. Getting through the day was hard enough before, but now pain shoots up your spine and down your legs with every motion.
So, how do we prevent this pain without giving up doing all the things we have to do as moms? I graduated as a Physical Therapist's Assistant in 2012. I've learned a thing or two about proper lifting technique and how to improve your body mechanics to prevent injury and back pain. I'm so thankful to have had this education, because I'm sure without it, eventually I'd be suffering right along with the other 31 millions Americans that have back pain at any given time. I want to pass this education along to you, because I'd hate to see any of you experiencing this pain as well. I'm not going to get into all the different diagnosis's or treatment forms. My intent is to give you practical tips to prevent the onset of these ailments.
A lot of back pain is caused by repetitive strain put on the spinal column and muscles surrounding it. This means every toy you pick up from the floor with poor form causes those bones and muscles to work in a way they shouldn't which eventually will lead to pain. So, here are some tips for proper lifting technique:
>>USE YOUR LEGS! Believe it or not, your back is not designed to do heavy lifting. The muscles are small and better for stabilizing and conducting those "smaller" movements of your trunk. Your legs however are powerful and just perfect for the job. When you go to pick anything up (even the smallest things and especially heavy things) do a nice little squat, keeping your back straight rather than bending over. I know its not graceful, but neither is hobbling around in pain :)
>>Bring your load close to your body. Holding something far away from your body to lift or carry things puts a major strain on your back. The farther you hold something away, the more you core and back have to work to maintain stability...plus it would look really funny if you walked around holding everything at arms length. Anyway, just be sure to bring that load close to your body before picking it up.
>>Please, please, please don't twist or pivot when lifting. You have these discs between each vertebrae and they can handle a lot, but when you twist and lift that squeezes them in ways they ought not to be squeezed (to put it in laymen's terms). Not to mention all those nerves running in and out and between your vertebrae. It's important not to twist. Instead, take steps to turn your body.
>>Do core strengthening exercises. I'm not talking about doing crunches to get a six pack. I'm talking about the less sexy looking tummy muscles, the ones below that rectus abdominis (your six pack muscle). These are amazing and basically form a corsette around your middle going diagonally from one side to the other and transversly. Its important to keep these strong because they help you to brace your trunk to protect it from bending in dangerous ways. This article has some great information and suggestions on how to strengthen these muscles. And the bonus is that you probably will get a trimmer waistline. :)
Those are the 3 main keys to remember. Now, I've found that, as a mom, there are some situations that are really tough to follow through with these.
>>Getting your kid out of the car seat: it's so awkward to try to get close to your "load", not bend your back, and not twist due to the confines of the vehicle and position of the seat. I've found that it helps to step into the car just slightly (as long as your balance is good), lift the baby up close to you, then step back, rather than pulling them out from a distance.
>>Getting your baby out of the crib. This wasn't an issue when the mattress was raised and he was so light, but as soon as we lowered the mattress it got really hard to lay him down without bending over with my arms extended due to the railing. I began to feel some back pain because of this. What's been working for me is to brace the front of my hips on the rail and, keeping my back straight for as long as possible, lean forward and lower him. Picking him up is easier now that he stands
Some other things that cause strain on your back that you may not think of:
>>Carrying your baby on your hip. I would get really sore on the side of my trunk and lower back and I figured out that that's what it was from. I started using a baby backpack. This is one my Mom picked up from a garage sale and what we liked about it is the hip strap because that takes the majority of the weight off your shoulders and onto your much stronger hips.
>>I've used the baby sling and must say, from a therapy perspective, I don't recommend them. They pull way too much on your neck and shoulders and when you add the strain of doing an activity such as washing dishes, it will takes its toll on your upper back. Now, I'm not against baby carrying at all. Its awesome, but use one that is designed with the safety of your baby and you in mind. I'm not going to go into all the different carriers, but you should be able to find a good one by googling.
>>Vacuuming. It's so goofy and hard to do it the right way, but just think for a moment how much twisting and leaning is involved in this activity. Yikes. The right way for your back would be to take many steps, squat from the knee, and do shorter swipes.
>>Washing Windows. You know that window above your sink. That wonderful one that you've spent many hours staring out of while washing dishes. Well he's a mean one when it comes to your back health. You bend over that sink, reaching to clean those tricky corners, unknowingly putting a strain on your back. My advice: get a step stool (or do what I do and climb on the counter, which I can't actually recommend because its probably not safe). By the way, this is my favorite part of our kitchen. That field there is a little cow farm and watching the babies play together is so fun!
I hope this has been helpful and saves a lot of pain and medical bills. Mom's, do this one thing for yourself and you will benefit everyone in your life. You deserve to live pain free.