Thanks to hormonal and postural changes during pregnancy plus caring for a newborn, postpartum back pain is a common symptom. And though a lot of symptoms will dissipate within a few months, there's still a lot you can do to speed it along.
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Join me and a certified a Pre& Post Natal Specialist and Doula in the audio version above while we chat about the role tight glutes play in back pain and the general day-to-day tasks of a mom. Learn what symptoms of tight glutes may look like, when to see a physical therapist, and the best way to loosen them so that you can get them strong.
What Is Postpartum Back Pain?
Postpartum back pain is stiffness and soreness that occurs immediately after and in the months following giving birth.
It typically manifests right in the low back and can feel worse as you learn to carry, feed, and care for a newborn (though these postpartum back pain exercises help!).
What Causes Back Pain Post-Pregnancy?
Postpartum back pain can be caused my numerous factors and is often not just one thing. Some common reasons are:
- Carrying extra weight
- Postural shifts from pregnancy
- Learning to breastfeed
- Poor abdominal engagement
- Carrying a newborn all the time
- Muscle weakness
- The hormone relaxin
During pregnancy your posture shifts to accommodate a growing baby. You also gain weight and use your muscles in different ways.
Plus, you have the hormone relaxin in full force which is made to loosen ligaments to help birth the baby.
All of this adds up on your body and most commonly shows itself as low back pain.
The Role Glutes Play In Postpartum Back Pain
The gluteal muscles are just one of the muscles that support our pelvic floor (and our torso in general).
However, when you're pregnant, constant tension happens and much of the center of gravity shifts. You tuck your tailbone under your bum and the glutes become overactive and tight.
Overactive glutes lead to a tight pelvic floor which can lead to:
- hip pain
- back pain
- pelvic pain
We want to be able to both relax the glutes and the pelvic floor as well as strengthen them. So you get that full range of motion which will help reduce back pain and pelvic pain.
It's like if you were to hold your bicep in a shortened position all the time and then you go to pick up something off the floor, you're not really going to have that full range of motion or the strength that you would if you actually were to let your arm go and relax every once in a while.
It’s the same thing with the glutes and the pelvic floor.
How To Alleviate Postpartum Back Pain With 3 Steps
Before we move forward, let's remember that we're chatting about common back pain or pelvic pain (not severe pain or chronic pain).
If you're experiencing severe pain, please check in with a doc.
Likewise, all new moms should see a pelvic floor physio (learn more about what pelvic floor physical therapist is) to get a better sense of what's going on with your pelvic muscles... especially if there's severe pain.
The first thing you need to do for pain relief is to see if you're constantly clenching your gutes. Is your bum tucked under a lot? Do you squeeze your bum a lot? Do you round your back and tuck your bum?
Try to come into a neutral postural position and unclench your glutes. Literally, "get your butt behind you".
Once you do that, you want to focus on two things:
- Glute and hip mobility to help pelvic girdle pain
- Strengthening the glutes so that they can do their job and support your body and pelvic floor muscles
- Learn to engage the deep core muscles
Note: upper body (thoracic spine and shoulders) play a role in back pain too. Opening these up can immensely help alleviate posterior pelvic pain. Here are some great upper body stretching drills.
Because we need to strengthen the glutes to alleviate posterior pelvic pain, we need to be able to take our hips through a full range of motion.
Once you're able to move your hips, you want to work on strengthening the glutes so that they can support you.
The glutes are part of the pelvic floor and thus, strengthening them is part of any good postpartum exercise plan.
Some great glute strengthening exercises are:
- Glute bridge
- Fire hydrants
You can learn more about strengthening your glutes in my blog posts: Glute Training 101: Everything You Need To Know.
Strengthening The Core
It's no surprise that our abdominal muscles take a hit during pregnancy as it must stretch to accommodate a growing baby.
This means that postpartum, we need to work on learning how to re-engage and strengthen those muscles.
Some great exercises for postpartum recovery are:
- Learning to breathe
- Heel slides
- Supported Toe Taps
- Adductor squeezes
Here are crucial postpartum drills.
You can learn more about engaging the abdominal muscles by learning how to fix diastasis recti.
Frequently Asked Questions About Postpartum Back Pain
Back pain is different for every mom. Most pain will alleviate within a few months after birth. However, then the body is challenged by carrying a heavier child and other weaknesses can occur. If you feel like you have lingering, chronic back pain, it's probably best to chat to your doctor.
Most back pain is caused from poor habits and learning new skills (like breastfeeding while moving!). A few things you can do to quickly alleviate back pain are: sit up tall, stretch the upper back, hang out in child pose, carry the baby using your arms and not by leaning back with your upper body.
Other Postpartum Resources To Help You On Your Journey
- Self-testing for diastasis recti
- Glute activation exercises
- The best stretches for breastfeeding to reduce neck and back pain
- Exercises to AVOID as a new mom
- Benefits of strong glutes
- Pelvic floor health
- Busy mom workout
- Mommy & me workout
- Busy mom workout schedule
- Follow along home workouts
- Fitness tips for moms