During pregnancy and birth, your body undergoes tremendous changes in shape, proportion and function the likes of which is not equalled at any other point in our lives. It is no surprise that mums are often left with a legacy of weakened core muscles that support our entire musculoskeletal function (that’s just body movement to you and me).
At Physiocare, we regularly treat women who are suffering back pain that they had not related to pregnancy and birth. Of course, there are numerous other conditions that mums often have to deal with, including stress incontinence, separated stomach muscles and bulging tummy, but more on those next time!
As a baby grows inside your body, there are new pressures on your pelvis and hips, and your posture changes to accommodate your change in body shape. Hormones instruct your body to relax ligaments in preparation for childbirth. All of this coupled with a growing baby adding more weight and pressure on your spine is bound to cause imbalances. What we encounter at Physiocare is a range of conditions where those imbalances have not been fully corrected by nature. After birth, mums are then faced with the bustle and strain of lifting and carrying babies and toddlers, which may lead to poor posture over time as any weaknesses created during pregnancy are reinforced through habit. Most commonly, we see ladies who have retained a weakness in their core muscles, creating a ‘mummy tummy’ that simply won’t go through diet and regular exercise.
Common complaints we encounter are:
- Lower back pain
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Bulging tummy
Amongst mothers, even years after childbirth, a high proportion of back pain conditions are caused by weakened core muscles through pregnancy and birth causing the pelvis to remain unstable. Our bodies compensate for this instability by recruiting other muscles to help, such as our large bottom muscles (glutes), causing many mums to ‘butt grip’ subconsciously in an attempt to stabilise. Our large back muscles can also end up working much too hard, as their counterpart on the front of the body, ie our stomach muscles, are too weakened to balance things out. Our muscles must work together to provide optimal movement and any imbalance may cause restricted movement and pain.
Our Body Recovery Course for Mums at Physiocare is designed specifically for mothers looking to get in shape from the inside out and includes an educational progamme along with specialist Pilates-based exercises. We have treated hundreds of women and have picked up a few dos and don’ts that you may find helpful:
- Begin gentle pelvic floor exercises after your six-week post-natal check up
- Be aware of your posture when picking up and carrying baby
- Check with your midwife if you have any split tummy muscles that will need addressing
- Take gentle, core-building exercise once you have the all clear from the GP, such as swimming or walking; long walks with baby are great for toning up and naturally building up your core again
- Head straight down the gym and start high-impact cardio work without developing some internal, core stability!
- Start full sit-ups that work the front tummy muscle, but won’t ever address the bulge that is caused by a weakened core. Strengthening these muscles will only send signals to your core that it doesn’t need to stabilise you, potentially causing further muscle imbalances