While the joy of motherhood is undeniable, postpartum lower back pain is a common issue that many new mothers face. The physical changes during pregnancy and the strain of labor can lead to discomfort and pain in the lower back. In this article, we will explore the causes of postpartum lower back pain and discuss effective ways to find relief, including how to build strength in your core and glutes.
Understanding Postpartum Lower Back Pain
Postpartum lower back pain refers to discomfort, soreness, or pain in the lower back that occurs after giving birth. This pain can vary in intensity, from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain. It is a common complaint among new mothers and can have a significant impact on their daily lives.
Causes of Postpartum Lower Back Pain
Several factors contribute to the development of postpartum lower back pain. It’s essential to understand these causes to address the issue effectively.
- Hormonal Changes: During pregnancy, the body produces hormones like relaxin, which loosen ligaments and joints to prepare for childbirth. These hormonal changes can persist after giving birth and lead to instability in the lower back.
- Changes in Posture: Carrying the extra weight of a growing baby can cause changes in posture, leading to increased stress on the lower back. This can continue postpartum, especially when caring for a newborn.
- Weakened Abdominal Muscles: Pregnancy can weaken the abdominal muscles, as they stretch to accommodate the growing baby. Weak core muscles can contribute to lower back pain as the back takes over the job that the core muscles should be doing.
- Muscular Imbalances: Muscular imbalances can develop due to the increased demand on certain muscle groups during pregnancy and after childbirth.
- Poor Lifting Techniques: New mothers often lift and carry their babies, strollers, and other baby-related items. Using incorrect lifting techniques can strain the lower back.
- Lack of Physical Activity: The postpartum period can lead to a lack of physical activity, which can weaken muscles and contribute to lower back pain.
Relief for Postpartum Lower Back Pain
Now that we understand the causes, let’s explore effective ways to find relief from postpartum lower back pain, with a particular emphasis on strengthening the core and glutes.
- Consult a Healthcare Professional
If you’re experiencing severe or persistent postpartum lower back pain, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional, such as an obstetrician, physical therapist, or orthopedic specialist. They can provide a personalized assessment and treatment plan. A postpartum coach specializing in fitness and core strength can also help with at home exercises that will help relieve pain.
- Postpartum Exercise
Exercise can play a crucial role in relieving postpartum lower back pain. However, it’s crucial to start slowly and consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any exercise routine. Gradually incorporating exercises to strengthen the core and glutes is a key component of reducing pain.
- Strengthening the Core
Strengthening the core muscles can help stabilize the lower back and reduce pain. Some effective core-strengthening exercises for postpartum women include:
a. Pelvic Tilts: Lie on your back with knees bent. Tilt your pelvis upward while tightening your abdominal muscles. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat 10-15 times.
b. Bird-Dog Exercise: Begin on your hands and knees. Extend one arm and the opposite leg simultaneously while keeping your back in a slight c curve. Hold for a few seconds and switch sides. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.
c. Bridge Exercise: Lie on your back with knees bent. Lift your hips off the ground, forming a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for a few seconds and lower your hips. Repeat 10-15 times.
For a complete core rehab program that helps to strengthen the muscles, heal diastasis recti, and relieve lower back pain caused by core weakness, check out the Core Corrective.
- Strengthening the Glutes
Strong glutes can provide stability and support to the lower back. Here are some effective glute-strengthening exercises:
a. Clamshells: Lie on your side with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your feet together and lift the top knee while keeping your feet in contact. Lower your knee and repeat 10-15 times on each side.
b. Glute Bridges: Similar to the bridge exercise for the core, this exercise also engages the glutes. Perform it as described earlier.
c. Squats: Squats engage the glutes, as well as the quads and hamstrings. Start with bodyweight squats and gradually add weights as you become more comfortable.
For a full 9 week program to strengthen your glutes, tone your backside, fix your pelvic floor, and help relieve postpartum back pain, check out the Ultimate Mama Glute Camp.
II. Ways to Find Relief
Postpartum lower back pain can be challenging, but there are several strategies to alleviate discomfort and promote recovery.
- Core Strengthening: One of the most effective ways to relieve and prevent postpartum lower back pain is to strengthen the core muscles. The core includes not just the abdominal muscles but also the lower back muscles, the pelvic floor, and the obliques. A strong core provides stability and support to the spine. There are various exercises you can incorporate into your postpartum routine to strengthen your core:a. Pelvic Tilts: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Gently tilt your pelvis upward and hold for a few seconds, then release. This exercise can help engage the lower back and pelvic muscles.b. Kegels: Kegel exercises target the pelvic floor muscles, which are essential for maintaining core stability. To do Kegels, contract and release the pelvic floor muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine.c. Planks: Start with modified planks on your knees and work your way up to full planks. Planks engage the entire core and help build strength and stability.
- Gentle Yoga and Stretching: Gentle yoga and stretching exercises can alleviate lower back pain by promoting flexibility and relaxation. Postpartum yoga routines focus on strengthening the core and gently stretching the muscles. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider or a certified yoga instructor before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you’ve had a C-section or other complications during childbirth.
- Proper Posture: Maintaining good posture is crucial in preventing and relieving lower back pain. When caring for your newborn or doing everyday tasks, be mindful of your posture. Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and use proper body mechanics to avoid straining your lower back.
- Supportive Footwear: Wearing supportive footwear can help alleviate lower back pain. Postpartum, your body’s alignment may have changed, and the added weight of your baby can affect your posture. Invest in shoes that provide adequate arch support and cushioning.
- Physical Therapy:If you’re experiencing severe or persistent postpartum lower back pain, consider seeking the help of a physical therapist. A trained therapist can assess your condition, develop a personalized exercise plan, and provide techniques to relieve pain.
- Massage and Chiropractic Care:Regular massages and chiropractic adjustments can help alleviate postpartum lower back pain. These treatments can provide relief by reducing muscle tension and realigning the spine.
- Pain Medication and Heat/Cold Therapy:In some cases, over-the-counter pain medications and heat or cold therapy can provide temporary relief. Consult with your healthcare provider before using any medication, especially if you are breastfeeding.
- Supportive Devices:Supportive devices like maternity belts or postpartum girdles can help stabilize the lower back and provide relief during daily activities.
- Weight Management:If you gained excess weight during pregnancy, consider working on postpartum weight management under the guidance of your healthcare provider. Shedding those extra pounds can relieve pressure on your lower back.
- Mind-Body Techniques: Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help reduce stress and tension, which can contribute to lower back pain.
Postpartum lower back pain can be a significant concern for many new mothers. Understanding the duration, causes, and potential connections between breastfeeding and back pain is essential for managing and finding relief from this discomfort. Let’s tackle three common questions related to postpartum lower back pain.
1. How long does postpartum lower back pain last?
The duration of postpartum lower back pain varies from woman to woman. It typically peaks within the first few weeks after childbirth but can persist for several months or even longer in some cases. The duration depends on various factors, including the individual’s overall health, the type of delivery (vaginal or cesarean section), the presence of any complications, and the effectiveness of pain management strategies. In general, most women experience a gradual reduction in lower back pain over time, with significant relief within the first few months postpartum. However, if the pain is severe, persistent, or interferes with daily activities, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider for a proper evaluation and guidance.
2. Why does my lower back hurt postpartum?
Postpartum lower back pain can have several underlying causes:
a. Pregnancy-Related Changes: During pregnancy, hormonal changes loosen ligaments and the weight gain places extra strain on the lower back, contributing to discomfort.
b. Labor and Delivery: The physical demands of labor and delivery can result in muscle soreness, tension, or potential injuries in the lower back area.
c. Posture Changes: Caring for a newborn often involves awkward postures, like bending or hunching over. These positions can strain the lower back over time.
d. Core Weakness: The abdominal and lower back muscles may be weakened due to pregnancy and childbirth, leading to insufficient support for the spine.
e. Breastfeeding: The physical act of breastfeeding may also contribute to lower back pain. Prolonged periods of sitting or leaning forward to breastfeed can strain the lower back muscles and exacerbate existing discomfort.
f. Lack of Rest: Sleep deprivation and the physical demands of caring for a newborn can lead to muscle tension and exacerbate lower back pain.
3. Can breastfeeding cause back pain?
Yes, breastfeeding can potentially cause or exacerbate back pain in some women. This discomfort primarily arises from the posture and positioning adopted during breastfeeding. When breastfeeding, mothers often sit for extended periods in a hunched or slouched position. This posture can strain the lower back muscles, leading to discomfort and pain.
To reduce the risk of breastfeeding-related back pain, consider the following tips:
a. Supportive Chair and Pillows: Choose a chair or glider with proper lumbar support, and use pillows to help maintain an upright posture while breastfeeding.
b. Adjust the Position: Experiment with different breastfeeding positions to find one that minimizes strain on your lower back.
c. Take Breaks: Avoid sitting in one position for too long. Take short breaks to stretch and adjust your posture.
d. Exercise and Strengthen Core Muscles: As mentioned in the previous article, core-strengthening exercises can help provide better support to your lower back, which is particularly important when breastfeeding.
Postpartum lower back pain is a common concern among new mothers, but it doesn’t have to be a long-term issue. Understanding the causes and taking proactive steps to find relief can significantly improve your comfort and quality of life during this special phase of motherhood.
One of the most effective ways to relieve and prevent postpartum lower back pain is to strengthen the core. A strong core provides the stability and support that the lower back needs to handle the demands of motherhood. Whether you’re doing exercises at home or seeking professional guidance, incorporating core-strengthening routines into your postpartum recovery can make a substantial difference in your overall well-being. Remember, always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise or treatment plan to ensure it’s suitable for your specific needs.
In conclusion, postpartum lower back pain can vary in duration and result from a combination of factors related to pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum activities. While breastfeeding can contribute to back pain, proper posture and support can mitigate the discomfort associated with this nurturing act. If you experience severe or persistent back pain, consulting a healthcare provider is advisable for a comprehensive evaluation and tailored guidance on managing and alleviating postpartum lower back pain.