Your Postpartum Back Pain Survival Guide: For Mom and Dad!

I would say the average postpartum mom bends over 50 times in a day just to do basic baby stuff (thats not including what she is already doing at work or around the house). Simply throwing a baby into the mix can take you from a minor back discomfort to having crippling pain. What you don’t need is another article talking about “what causes it”.  What you need is a survival guide. A guide both you and your partner can follow from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to sleep…well you won’t sleep much with a newborn so let’s just say while your eyes are open you will need something to follow. Today we are going to cover key postpartum core exercises along with everything both mom and dad need to survive life with young kids and crippling back pain. 

I remember my first baby (on the day this was written 3.5 years old). Life was brutal. Not only was I knee deep in new baby stuff but my back was killing me. I specifically remember how brutal nights and mornings were for me bending into the crib to put the baby in or take the baby out. I basically had to will the baby in and out of my arms. There was no way my lower back was letting me do anything gently. It was pure survival for me and it sucked. It was also around this time, I was really discovering my root cause and what I needed to do more of when it came to my rehab and what I needed to do less of. One thing I knew for sure was I needed a solution FAST.

To speed up the healing process I did what any normal American would do, I turned to the internet.

Nobody was really talking about how to prevent back pain or deal with back pain after bringing a new baby home. There are tons of trainers talking about core exercises and short term relief techniques but it was pretty lame and nothing really worked. On top of that when you think of “Postpartum” you think of moms, definitely not dads. Now, of course, I understand why this is a reality but I was a dad with back pain so I wanted to hear from someone who had been in my shoes.

The story gets better

Almost 4 years later I now have two kids (3.5 years old and 6 months) and I can proudly say my back DOESN’T hurt. Even with my 6-month-old son Abram, I don’t experience a quarter of the amount of pain I had with Avah (3.5 year old). I do the same amount of work and lift from the same amount of levels but I don’t deal with the pain I had with my first born, Avah.

I studied postpartum back pain a lot and I seemed to hit a lot of dead ends until I realized that new babies, more stress, less sleep etc. are simply vehicles of bad habits which cause pain. It’s not the baby that literally makes the pain appear it’s what you do with the baby that makes all the difference. This mental shift changed my life and I want to take the time today to share it with you.

Just a heads up: Some of the links to items I suggest are affiliate links.

Before we dive in I want to speak to the moms first.

A simple mind-shift for all the moms.

*The most important thing you do first is rule out any major issues you may be having from carrying the baby. It is rare but there could be a more serious issue causing your back pain that goes beyond what I address here today. This is why I always suggest you see your trusted medical professional first before starting any kind of physical activity.*

Let’s first address the elephant in the room.

You literally just carried a 6+ lb baby along with all the fixings of a healthy womb around for 9+ months. Your back is snapped up and will remain snapped up to a certain extent until your body can do its thing and get back to the way it was before. Yes, to a certain extent your body WILL return to its previous condition to where the acute onset of lower back pain from carrying the weight out front will subside.

That’s not all.

From the time you have carried this baby inside your belly, a lot of things happen to your core muscles along with your hips. The muscles in your belly either stretch or separate and the joints in your hip (along with the rest of your body) get super loose and mobile to prepare for labor. Some moms jump back into yoga and pilates which can be great but I encourage you to work through this article before you decide to jump back into anything!

*If you want to learn a little bit more of what happens to your body during pregnancy that causes back pain later check out this article from www.babycenter.com

A lot of your recovery will be based around waiting. As your body bounces back it’s key that you focus in on the details below and take this time to perfect the movements you probably never even gave a second thought.


 

back pain after pregnancy


How to rebuild your core after having a baby

I love taking someone fresh out of an injury or major life event like this and taking the time to start from the very bottom when it comes to teaching or rebuilding what they have lost. I am convinced that we have all been taught poor technique in just about every aspect of our life (including me) so to be able to confidently hit the reset is pretty awesome.

Where to start.

When it comes to rebuilding your core post-baby, it’s all about the details. Take this time to really get an understanding of how to move and rebuild any faulty habits you may have had before the baby. To help with that, I always suggest starting with bracing. Bracing is and will always be your first step in the repairing process after pregnancy. This is a subtle way of waking up the mind-body connections that may have been lost during your pregnancy. Most people really don’t understand the bracing concept so this will definitely be something used by both mom and dad.

If you have no idea whether or not your bracing is on point I show you how to do a simple bracing test in the video below.

Listen up.

Doing this simple test may be the only workout your able to do right now. If you fail this test at all, I want you to practice bracing throughout the day. Continue to do so until it is mastered.


After the bracing has been mastered you can now start implementing some basic fundamental movements that will help retrain your core and get you on the right track to getting back pain relief.

My top 3 postpartum core exercises 

 

Stir the Pots

This is a great exercise that hits the entire core at once. With the slight movements you create back and forth, up and down and around in circles, it forces you to activate different portions of the core at different times, building stability and endurance to protect your spine.

Check out the video for a brief virtual coaching session on this exercise.

Plank Rotations

This is an exercise that is all about the details. When doing this you will start in a front plank position (belly facing the ground). Posteriorly tilt your pelvis and squeeze your glutes (never skip this step!). What you’re going to do is hold this front plank position for 10 seconds then switch to a side plank position for another ten seconds. The transition is the most important aspect to this exercise. What most people do wrong is initiate the transition from their hips so, their hips will turn first then their upper body usually follows behind. The key to this is keeping the spine neutral as you make the transition. Your entire trunk should twist at the same time from your chest to your feet. Everything is engaged and turning together. Hold the plank for 10 seconds then you will transition to the opposite side for the remaining 10 seconds. Repeat 3 sets of these 30-second planks. To add difficulty just do more sets. The goal for this exercise is not to work up to holding a plank for long periods of time. I want short bursts of perfect form.

This video goes into great detail on this exact movement!

Founder Exercise

I have grown to love this exercise for engaging the entire posterior chain as well as incorporating the feet, legs, core and even upper body. It’s better to watch someone explain this video so check out the video on how to master this position. The two modifications to be aware of.

Two modifications to be aware of.

1 – Watch how mush extension you allow to happen in your lower back. Some people are flexion intolerant so you need to be very cautious with what is going on.

2 – If you experience more pain with flexion you can take out the portion where you are bending over and reaching for your toes. 

Start with these 3 exercises and learn to not only master them but make them something you do daily. It can be your warm up before a workout,  a mid-day break activity or something you do before you go to bed. If you can do this series of exercises 2x a day you will be in great shape!

 

For even more great exercises specifically for postpartum moms, check out this article here!


My Free Gift to you!

A click-and-print introductory core training program

Click the image to open the PDF and print if off!

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If there was a “secret” to beating postpartum back pain, it would be this. 

Now that you have a good baseline for rebuilding your core after having a baby, I want to switch to what I think is just as important as a solid supportive core and that’s the day-to-day habits you do that are destroying your chances of getting pain relief.

When it comes to the many activities and habits you do daily it’s super important to teach yourself to be mindful of your postures and movement mechanics. When it comes to having a new baby. a lot of things you do are a reaction to what’s going on. The baby is crying so you prepare what you need to feed him/her. The baby blew up its diaper so you get the diaper changing stuff together. When these things happen typically your mind is already full of what you need to do in order to resolve the issue at hand. The stuff like body position, posture or movement mechanics are the last thing on your mind.

This is where creating new habits come in. If you want to drastically reduce your pain you have to create new habits. Period. There are no shortcuts or ways around this simple fact. All a habit needs is repetition to finally stick. My hopes for this portion of the article is to spark something in your brain to remind you about these key issues new moms and dads have and what you can do to fix them.

3 Common habits new parents do that keep their back pain spiraling out of control. 

 

*Warning* Some of these are super simple and may not seem like they make a big deal but remember back pain is a cumulative result of poor movements and postures over time. If you remove the hammer (poor movement and mechanics) the nail (your back) stops getting hit.

 

(1) Nursing/Feeding:

postpartum back pain 

 

Whether you choose to breast-feed or bottle-feed it really doesn’t matter. The key to this is body position and support. There is no way to reduce the amount of feeding you will do so the best option will be to optimize the way you do it.

*Warning* Some of these are super simple and may not seem like they make a big deal but remember back pain is a cumulative result of poor movements and postures over time. If you remove the hammer (poor movement and mechanics) the nail (your back) stops getting hit.

With short notice, you may find yourself holding the baby in your arms and feeding him or her without anything supporting the weight of the child. Without support under the baby taking the weight, your arms, shoulders, and back will be responsible for maintaining good posture the entire time. After 10 minutes of feeding odds are your posture has succumb to the babies weight and everything is rounded forward.

The Fix:

Whether it’s mom or dad feeding , always have something to rest the baby on or bring the baby up or down to your level while they feed. You want to be able to maintain a stacked posture while you sit no matter what you’re doing. If your back is already inflamed, this constant external load that is acting against your better posture will keep you on a vicious pain cycle. You want to position the baby in a way to favor your healthy posture. “Bring the baby to you don’t go to the baby.”

 

(2) Carrying bags, babies, and carriers.

 

postpartum back pain

 

When you’re trying to rehab or prevent postpartum back pain, the way you carry these new objects is key. One of the biggest causes of back pain with or without a baby is the back muscles not being able to shut off and relax due to a constant forward flexed position (often seen with desk jobs). Typically babies are carried on the hip or on one side of the body over the other. The problem with this is that the longer you hold the baby the more you will allow the weight of the baby to determine your pelvis and spine position. If you’re dealing with sciatica or any kind of herniated disc, this is a guaranteed flair up waiting to happen.

The Fix:

You need to train your core to engage and support your spine while carrying these uneven loads. Whether it’s a baby, bag or carrier. Practice bracing the core before you lift and maintaining this brace from point A to point B. Pairing bracing with switching sides from time to time will support even development and less compensation on one side over the other. You are going to want to stick to your dominate side but for Pete’s sake, change it up!

Let’s be realistic.

I get it, sometimes you can’t put down the child to take a break or the baby stays on one side of the body more than the other. This is where I am a firm believer in hands-free carriers. Like the Baby Bjorn. Super comfy and the straps are adjustable so that you can do 2 key things. Switch from front to back as well as adjust the baby so they are higher up on your body. The higher up the better! Another great option (my wife was more of a fan of these) is the CuddleBug Baby Wrap Carrier. This is also super soft and very customizable. Both serve their purpose and allow you to carry the baby more ergonomically. I actually hate that word but in this case, it’s true.

When it comes to bags, go for an across the chest bag like this Diaper Dude Bag. This way you can distribute the weight of the bag along with carrying the baby or whatever else your trying to juggle. Remember to beat postpartum back pain you don’t have to reinvent the wheel you just have become really good at the mindless activities you do that involve using your spine.

(3) Picking up clothes, dirty diapers and whatever else that keeps you bending

 

 

If I had to pick only one major issue that caused the majority of postpartum back pain it would have to be the excessive bending. Baby or no baby Americans have completely forgotten how to bend properly. In this case for both moms and dads (moms especially after carrying the baby) the only way to protect your spine from this excessive bending is to master the simple art of hip hinging. I can’t stress this enough. If you do ANY of the following you need to go through my hip hinging crash course (ill be sure to link the videos for you below)

Daily activities where hip hinging needs to be mastered.

1 – Bending to pick the baby up off the floor

2 – Bending to grab diaper bags, or carrier

3 – Bending to grab clothes, diapers, wipes or toys off the ground

4 – Bending to grab your baby out of the crib or carrier

5 – Bending to wash your baby in the tub

The Fix:

Master the hip hinge. There is really nothing else that could be more important. Practice doing it with EVERYTHING you do whether it’s baby related or not. Another great tip I wish someone had given me was set up your life to support a recovering bad back. Everything about your life needs to support you desensitizing your lower back and allowing the muscles to relax and to release.

3 Actionable life hacks you can do right now to help beat back pain

1 – Change all diapers and clothes while standing. This can easily be done using a changing pad on top of a dresser or on top of your bed.

2 – Keep diaper bags, baby carriers and supplies above waist height to cut down on the need to bend.

3 – Get a stroller with a high handle. We have a really nice Britax stroller but the handle is not adjustable and a bit too low. For taller moms and dads I suggest the Moutain Buggy Terrain for more active joggers or the Britax B-Ready for the day to day strolling. Both have an over 40inch max handle height which is perfect for most people.

Hip Hinging Crash Course

 

good posture with baby

 

If you have no idea what hip hinging is, I want to make this short and sweet. The key to this is making sure you practice, practice, practice. I am going to share a 3 step process with you broken up into short, easily digestible videos. Practice step one and continue on to step two and eventually three to put it tall together.

Step one: Master the basics of hinging at the hips.

Tip: Before bending, tilt the pelvis back and squeeze your glutes.

 

Step 2: Master the shortstop position to practice a standing hip hinge.

Tip: Before bending, tilt the pelvis back and squeeze your glutes.

Step 3: Add in a pole or stick to further make the hip hinge connection.

 

Once the hip hinge is mastered you will most likely be applying it to every bit of bending you do. Keep it up and enjoy your new bundle of joy pain-free! 

Just because you have an unpredictable baby in the house now doesn’t mean you have to suffer from unpredictable back pain. Take the step daily I outline above to ensure a fast road to recovery. Remember to practice everything daily and continue to until it no longer is practice but a newly ingrained habit. This my friend is where your freedom is found!


This is where the rubber meets the road.

Anyone I personally coach along with every bit of my content you read on this website requires a big decision once your done reading.

Action.

There are two types of people that will read this article.

Type 1: They will think the information and actionable steps are great and begin doing them within minutes of reading them. After a couple day’s it will be an occasional change and eventually turn into just another failed attempt at beating their back pain.

Type 2: They will also think this information is great and start to implement what they learned within minutes. This person will also make it a point to set up reminders all over their house and office telling them to always “Think before you move”. They will constantly ask themselves things like “how is my posture?” or “is my trunk braced and my hips taking the load when I bend?” They will become obsessed with making these new habits stick. The cool thing about these people is before they know it, they will get to a point where they don’t have to THINK about doing it anymore, their bodies will take over and use these new found habits as daily routines. This is what it takes for ANYONE to see relief from their pain.

Educate yourself but above all TAKE ACTION!

Be sure to help any of your friends currently preparing to deliver or just starting out in their pregnancy by sharing this article with them!

If you deal with postpartum back pain, leave a comment below and let me know what you have been doing to find freedom!

 

Thanks for reading guys!

William


back pain after pregnancy

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