Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates

Postpartum Back Pain: Another Cause of Chronic Back Pain

Reports suggest that women, in general, suffer low back pain more often than men do. While many factors or combination of factors contribute to back pain, the stress and lack of sleep of caring for a newborn often causes pain that can last for months following delivery.

If you suffered back problems prior to pregnancy or experienced severe back pain while pregnant, then you are more likely to continue to have chronic back pain after you give birth.

How Having a Baby Causes Low Back Pain

The physical changes in your body that occur during pregnancy can lead to lower back pain after giving birth. As the uterus expands during pregnancy, it weakens the abdominal muscles and alters your posture — both of which strains your back. Your muscles also have to work harder because of the added stress that gaining pregnancy weight puts on your joints.

Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy loosen joints and ligaments. Although these changes occur to prepare your body for a growing fetus, the lumbar pain it can cause may radiate down your legs when you lift your baby or stand or sit for too long. Sometimes pain occurs in the buttocks region or the back of your thighs when you walk, climb stairs, or lift heavy objects.

Self-Care Measures That Help Alleviate Pain

Exercise is something you can do to help alleviate lower back pain. Walking is a safe way to start. Take it slow at first and keep your walks short. Once your doctor or other health care provider gives you the okay, move on to gentle stretching exercises, pelvic tilts, and exercises to strengthen your back, abdominal muscles, and muscles surrounding the spine.

Massage and the use of a heating pad or cold pack help ease tense muscles and relieve soreness. A portable TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit for home use is a small device that temporarily relieves lower back pain by delivering pulses of current to sore muscles. The pulses may cause a temporary tingling sensation.

Your posture is another factor to consider. Poor body mechanics when you lift your baby in and out of the crib, stroller, and car seat increases your risk of damaging ligaments, muscles, tendons, joints, and spinal discs. Train yourself to use your legs and not your back when lifting.

Minimize the stress on your back by bending slightly at the knees. Keep your back straight and avoid bending at the waist. Hold your baby close to your chest while lifting and then straighten your knees. Do the same when lowering your infant down into the crib.

You also need to be aware of proper body mechanics when you nurse your infant. Like standing, it’s important to sit with your back straight. Bring your baby to your breast, using pillows to support your back and arms and a footstool to raise your feet while nursing.

The same as breastfeeding, sit up straight and support your back with pillows when you bottle feed your baby. Hold your infant close to you while they eat.

Medical Treatment You May Need

You should report severe, persistent, or worsening back pain to your doctor. You may need medical treatment to help alleviate pain, and a doctor who specializes in back pain is best able to help you. Your doctor may recommend the following procedures to diagnose and treat your back pain.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRIs are a common diagnostic tool that help doctors see and understand what’s going on inside your body. If pregnancy and childbirth have changed your body in ways that lead to chronic back pain, an MRI may help your doctor find the specific issue that’s causing the problem, which will lead to more effective treatment.

Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging (RUSI)

When receiving postpartum physical therapy for chronic low back pain, the use of RUSI allows you and your therapist to see your abdominal muscles on a monitor during exercise. This helps to identify the muscles that are causing your pain so that your therapist can create a program that targets the particular muscle groups that aren’t working normally.

Exercise after childbirth may not be enough to relieve your back pain if you are not be working the right muscles. RUSI helps improve core strength by tailoring treatment to exercise strained and weakened muscle groups so that they contract properly.

Physical Therapy

Once your doctor has enough information to diagnose your specific problem, they may recommend physical therapy exercises that will help your body heal correctly. A certified physical therapist will guide you through the exercises to make sure you do them correctly, allowing you to get the best chance possible of recovery. Expect to focus on exercises that stretch and strengthen your core muscles.

If you have lower back pain after giving birth that doesn’t go away, then contact the pain management specialists at SW Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates for evaluation and treatment of your chronic back pain.

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