Skip to Content

Does my child have to be a pain in my back?

Christian Bourgeois, DPT, MEd, MTC

         My wife asked me that question a few weeks ago.  She delivered our first born August 5, 2009.  She decided to put teaching aside for now, stay at home with him to be a full-time mother, and loving every minute.  But her “new profession” has been taking a toll on her body, namely, in the form of low back pain. I know she is not alone.  There are many mothers (and fathers) who have been dealing with low back pain on a daily basis ever since they added to their families.

        While a woman is pregnant, her body produces the hormone Relaxin, which causes the ligaments to become soft. Such laxity is what allows a woman’s pelvis to become mobile enough to give birth. Unfortunately, Relaxin affects ligaments throughout the body and can remain for several months after birth (and even longer for nursing mothers). Although Relaxin has its purpose for the birthing process, it is no help whatsoever for ensuring proper stabilization of the low back.

        An additional factor contributing to a woman’s low back instability during and after pregnancy is the stretching out of the abdominal muscles. As a muscle stretches out, i.e. during pregnancy, it loses its ability to produce its normal force. Consequently, pregnant women and new mothers not only have ligament laxity they lack the 'dynamic' stability and support provided by the surrounding muscles.  The result; yep, increased stress on the back, which in turn, leads to increased back pain; especially when coupled with the rigors of caring for a child or children.

        Simple activities such as picking up a child, holding or carrying him/her, putting him/her in the bed, or making that transition in and out of a car seat, all have the potential of injuring a healthy back, much less one that has just gone through nine months of pregnancy, the birthing process, and has lost the stability ligaments and muscles used to provide.  It’s no wonder many mothers with young children have back pain.

        Fortunately, back pain for new (and experienced) mothers is not a life sentence.  Exercises focusing on strengthening the abdominals and low back can go a long way in decreasing the stress and pain.   And do not worry; I am not talking about sit-ups. There are far better, more effective and less strenuous exercises to stabilize the low back.  And it sounds simple but utilizing proper lifting techniques, such as lifting with your legs and not bending, can decrease the amount of stress on the back and pain.

        To learn what exercises will work best to stabilize your back as well as how to lift properly, ask your doctor if you are medically fit enough to participate in an exercise program and then see a physical therapist. Physical therapists are health professionals trained in treating musculoskeletal impairments and dysfunctions such as low back pain whether it be from weak muscles, lax ligaments or a number of other causes.

        My son is already 5 months old. We are enjoying every minute as my wife and I are told the time will pass quickly and soon he will be off to college.  Although we see him change daily it's hard to grasp hold of that thought because he is so new to our lives, just like my wife's low back pain. 

        Mothers, you don't have to wait until your children are grown to address your low back pain.  Do like my wife and get help now.  Don't let your children be the cause of the pain in your back. 

Christian Bourgeois is a doctor of physical therapy, certified manual therapist, and is also certified in the use of Augmented Soft Tissue Manipulation (ASTYM) techniques.