Many new mothers experience back pain related to pregnancy for weeks, months and, in some cases, even years after giving birth. There are many causes of postnatal back pain; getting acquainted with them can help you relieve and prevent chronic pain.
One main cause of back pain both during and after pregnancy is the hormone relaxin. This aptly-named hormone relaxes ligaments, muscles and joints so that the womb can grow and the baby can be delivered. This loosening causes instability throughout the pelvis and back. The sacroiliac (SI) joints, which form where the pelvic bones meet the base of the spine, can become irritated and inflamed due to increased movement. This pain can radiate to the lower back and down the legs. The abdominal muscles also stretch and grow weak as the womb expands. Without the support of the abdominal muscles, the lower back muscles are strained as they try to support the upper body. Posture suffers as weight is gained and the center of gravity shifts.
According to Medicinenet.com, relaxin levels don’t subside in the body until about 5 months after childbirth. This means that your abdominal muscles and pelvic joints will still be lax for months after you have your baby, and the postural and biomechanical problems this causes can be expected to continue throughout that period.
Another way in which relaxin levels can lead to prolonged pain after birth is by facilitating a ripe situation for strains and sprains. Strains occur when muscles and tendons are stretched beyond their means, and sprains occur when ligaments supporting joints are overstretched. Severe strains and sprains involve the tearing of muscles, ligaments or tendons. The increased elasticity relaxin causes in your body makes it easier for these tissues to be overstretched since they don’t contract as quickly to protect themselves from being torn. If you’re eager to get back in shape after pregnancy and begin stretching and exercising without caution, you could strain muscles in the back and pelvis, or cause a sprain around the spine or SI joints.
You must also take into account the changes in activity you’re experiencing with a newborn in conjunction with the above physical situation. Picking up the baby, carrying him or her around and losing sleep can all help cause back pain. When you’re in a hurry to pick your child up, you may forget to use proper body mechanics. Bend at the hips, not the waist. Don’t lift your child while twisting if you can help it.
If your back pain lasts more than six month after childbirth, you likely have postural distortion caused by the changes your body went through. It is important to gently restore strength to your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to help support proper spinal alignment. Guided exercise like postnatal Pilates can help you do this safely. Persistent pain may also indicate that the SI joints or spinal joints have become misaligned during pregnancy or childbirth. A chiropractor or osteopath can perform manipulations that restore proper range of motion to joints and free up any nerves that may be compressed.
If your pain is debilitating or accompanied by any other symptoms, let your doctor know immediately. Back and pelvic pain are normal after giving birth, but the pain shouldn’t last more than 4 or 5 months. To help the pain on its way out, practice good body mechanics and remember to take it slow, since relaxin is still keeping your tissues lax. Taking the time to find helpful resources for yourself will ensure that the time you spend with your baby is uninterrupted by back pain.