Why Does My Back Hurt?

Well, I don’t know. Yet.

The muscles in and around the back are complex. But I already have a few guesses.

Back pain and you

Back pain makes you irritable, and it makes you avoid doing things. Chronic pain leads to changes in the brain, and the accompanying feeling of helplessness puts you at risk for depression.

Back Pain and Me

When naps still existed in my house, I loved that bright little post-nap smile when my babies were ready to get up. But that great feeling got dyed with dread from the anticipatory shot of pain I got lifting them from the crib.

More than once, an expedition to the grocery store brought me to tears. A trip to Trader Joe’s meant contorting myself through to fasten and unfasten the car seat–four times–plus lifting a chubby toddler into the cart, pushing the cart, and then carrying the bags up the stairs into the house.

Here are three common postpartum back pain culprits

posture

A lot of people have little things here and there in their posture that aren’t too big of a deal until they go through pregnancy. The big postural changes that result from carrying a human inside you for ten months can turn a little thing into a big pain and some significant pain, stiffness, or mobility limitations.

Learning some anatomy basics can really help with awareness. You might be doing some great exercises, but if you’re doing them without awareness of a postural tendency you have, you could be exacerbating something that’s not working for you. Let’s get your workouts doing what you want them to do.

a new Movement pattern

Do you hold your baby a lot? Do you spend a lot of time staring down at your phone in a sort of exhausted slouch? Are your breasts larger than they were two years ago? Our bodies compensate for the changes they go through, and in the postpartum state–both physically and emotionally–we tend toward a forward head and wilting thoracic spine.

When we’re missing strength, like in our core after childbirth, or when there’s a new demand (like nursing or sessions of bottle feeding), there’s always a neighborly muscle willing to help. These temporary fixes help us keep going, but when they become chronic adaptations, we get pain, reduced range of motion, and sticky fascia.

Corrective exercise can get neurons firing in healthy patterns again, creating a virtuous cycle where your daily movements help your body heal instead of creating demand on a strained system.

muscle imbalance

During pregnancy, the ligaments loosen so the organs and joints can adjust to a position that allows your body to carry the growing baby effectively. But while the body does adjust back, it doesn’t always do so evenly. For instance, maybe one hip bone has returned to its original position in relation to the spine, and one has returned most of the way–but is still a few millimeters away from where it used to be. Now you’re doing all your movements with an asymmetric alignment. The muscles that insert in the hip joint are stretched farther on one side than the other. This kind of hip joint imbalance often co-presents with back pain.

Getting an assessment of any imbalances in your current musculature is the first step. Then you can use corrective exercise to build up strength where it’s needed, loosen muscles that are too tight, and release fascial adhesions that are preventing full muscle expression.

You don’t need to live with back pain. You’re doing enough already.