3 common postpartum aches and pains and what can be done to help
Pregnancy, labour and birth can take a toll on our bodies. Hormonal changes, weight gain and repetitive or static positioning during labour and in the early days of caring for a new baby, all contribute to some common postpartum aches and pains.
I’ve partnered with Perth Key Therapy to bring you this information on some of the common aches and pains experienced by new mums and both natural and medical options to help.
Common Postpartum Aches and Pains
1. Neck and Shoulder Tightness
There are a number of factors that predispose new mums to tension in the neck and shoulders.
A ‘hunched’ position (where the neck, upper back and shoulders are flexed forward, or rounded) while feeding baby for long periods of time each day, can lead to neck and shoulder tightness and pain. Throw in sleep deprivation and there is a lot of muscle tension!
The hormone relaxin is responsible for relaxing the ligaments to facilitate baby’s growth during pregnancy and assist the birthing process. It can remain in the body for up to 5 months postnatally, and this ligament laxity can predispose women to joint pain.
2. Tight Hips and Lower Back Pain
During pregnancy, a woman’s posture changes to accommodate her growing baby and a forward shift in her centre of gravity. This typically leads to a lumbar lordosis, a visible C-like arch in the lower back, that can lead to muscle tightness, spasms and pain. With this shift in posture the hip flexor muscles typically shorten and tighten, potentially contributing to lower back pain. Postnatally, with weakened abdominal muscles and continued joint laxity, it takes time for the body to return to its pre-pregnant state, and back pain may persist.
3. Pelvic Girdle Pain
Pain in the front (pubic bone) and/or the back of your pelvis (sacroiliac joints) is known as Pelvic Girdle Pain. It can also affect other areas such as the hips and thighs. It is common in pregnancy and is usually caused by the joints moving unevenly, leading to instability and pain in the pelvic girdle. While it usually improves after birth, 1 in 10 women will still have pain.
Aside from pain in the pubic region, lower back, hips, groin, thighs or knees, women with pelvic girdle pain may notice that the pain is made worse by certain movements including walking on uneven surfaces or for long distances, moving the knees apart, standing on one leg or rolling over in bed.
What can be done to help?
As with any health concern, a holistic approach to healing is always ideal.
If you are concerned about severe pain or certain treatment options while breastfeeding, it is advisable to visit your doctor. For general aches and pains discussed in this article, a range of natural and mainstream therapies are available.
1. Be aware of your posture. Prevention is always best and in paying close attention to your posture while holding, feeding and carrying your baby, you can help prevent pain associated with holding a straining posture for too long.
In regards to pelvic girdle pain, being careful to avoid movements that exacerbate the pain is important. For example, putting equal weight on each leg when you stand, trying to keep your legs together when getting in and out of the car, keeping your knees together when turning over in bed and rolling to a side-lying position before getting up, will help prevent any strain on the joints.
2. Stay hydrated. This is particularly important for breastfeeding mums who have higher fluid requirements. Muscle pain is known to be exacerbated by dehydration due to an impaired ability to reduce inflammation. Keeping hydrated will help the body heal.
3. Get active. Low impact exercise such as walking, mum-and-baby yoga/pilates or aqua fitness classes are great ways to reduce muscle tension through increased mobility. Postnatal yoga and pilates are particularly useful for learning how to make adjustments to your posture through subtle muscle activation exercises.
4. Warm baths or showers and heat packs are also great options for postpartum women who continue to feel body pains after giving birth. These options dilate the blood vessels and promote blood flow to the affected area, allowing the muscles to relax.
5. Magnesium. Magnesium acts as a natural calcium blocker, helping your muscle cells relax after contracting. When magnesium levels are low, your muscles may contract too much and cause symptoms such as cramps or muscle spasms. Magnesium deficiency is very common. Speak to your pharmacist or natural health practitioner about the best magnesium supplement for you.
6. See your preferred practitioner. Manual therapy (hands-on treatment) by a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor to gently mobilise the muscles and joints, can help them to get back into position and move normally again. This should not be painful.
7. Try Neurostimulation. Neurostimulation biofeedback technology is a non-invasive, electrotherapeutic hand-held medical device that can be used to alleviate acute and chronic pain and to help restore functional movement.
This treatment approach works on two principles; that the body has its own healing capabilities, and that we can promote the ability to heal by stimulation of the areas of the brain responsible for regulation of the nervous system and maintaining balance within the body.
This technology is unique in its ability to be able to locate exactly where your body requires assistance to relieve pain or restore function. The device does this by monitoring the skin’s impedance (‘stickiness’ or drag) and then changes the electrical impulse it emits accordingly.
This therapy can assist your body to heal itself by opening nerve pathways and ensuring a clear message is being sent from the brain to the area requiring treatment.
It aims to create a change in your current condition. Any change means that the body has listened to the treatment and it is working.
However, some people may have an increase in pain, especially following their first treatment. This is a positive sign; as it means the body is listening to the problem, responding quickly to treatment and beginning to restore function. An increase in pain or symptoms does not usually last for any longer than 24 hours.
If you would like more information about Neurostimulation Biofeedback therapy you can contact Annie at Perth Key Therapy.
8. Medication. If you have no relief from the suggestions above, or if recommended by your health care provider, simple over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate symptoms of body aches and pains. Simple pain relief medication is safe to take while breastfeeding but speak to your pharmacist if you have any medical conditions.
Annie from Perth Key Therapy is a Registered Nurse and offers Neurostimulation Biofeedback treatment in her clinic room in Mt Lawley. If you would like more information, head to her website.
If you’re outside of the Perth metro area you can find a list of other practitioners here.
Disclaimer: This website is intended as a general educational aid in relation to women and children’s health in Australia. It does not constitute medical or healthcare advice, and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment. It is also not intended as a substitute for professional advice or services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your unique facts. Always seek the advice of your doctor regarding any medical condition or before starting any new treatment.
This post is sponsored by Perth Key Therapy.