Overuse and repetitive stress injuries are often attributed to athletes, but physical therapist Jennifer Hughes, DPT, of Step & Spine Physical Therapy (Sisters, Redmond, & Bend) points out that such ailments are also common to those who put their bodies through another extreme activity: motherhood.
“They can be overlooked,” said Hughes, herself the mother of a newborn baby. “But at the clinic, we definitely see a lot of new moms with back pain that can be attributed to overuse and repetitive use. Sometimes, they’re bodies are still recovering from giving birth.”
Besides back pain, the constant and repetitive motions associated with parenthood often cause discomfort, pain and even injury throughout a mom’s entire upper body – the back, neck, shoulders, elbows and wrists. The culprit, according to Hughes, is often poor posture and technique when lifting, holding and carrying babies and toddlers.
“And it’s more than that,” she added. “The amount of things you have to carry as a parent, besides your baby – the carriers and diaper bags – can really take a toll.”
But this “toll” can be prevented, Hughes points out. By simply being mindful of their bodies while performing these common parenting tasks, moms can avoid many of the overuse and repetitive use ailments so common throughout the world of motherhood. Here’s how:
Carrying a Baby or Toddler: Never hold your child with one arm, balanced on the hip. This can strain your back and ligaments on one side of your body. Instead, keep your child close to the body, holding with both arms and balanced in the center of your body.
Lifting Baby from the Crib: According to Hughes, don’t reach out and pick your baby up at arm’s length as this puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the back and shoulders. Rather, lower the crib’s railing all the way, set your feet apart and bring your baby close to the body before lifting. Lower and lift with your legs.
Picking Up from the Floor: Use a half-kneel lift when picking up a child from the floor. Keeping the back straight, place one foot slightly forward of the other, then bend your knees and hips to lower onto a knee. Once down, grasp your child with both arms, lift close to the body, then rise back up to a standing position using your legs and stomach muscles.
Carrying an Infant Car Seat: Carry by the handle with both hands, elbows bent, holding it in front of your body – weight evenly distributed. Never carry the seat to one side of your body or lug it around on a forearm as this places unneeded stress on your back, shoulder and arm.
In addition, Hughes said, it’s important for mothers to take breaks and relax whenever possible. Should pain or discomfort continue, Hughes suggests visiting a licensed physical therapist for an evaluation, tips for improving posture and technique, and an exploration of treatment options, if necessary.