- Back pain and stiffness are quite common for new parents.
- The pain and stiffness are a sign of your body adjusting to the new stresses and loads you’re carrying.
- There are upper and lower back stretches you could do which may help to alleviate the pain.
Feeding, carrying and changing are all part and parcel of having a new baby.
Then there’s all the time you spend hunched over your phone furiously searching for answers to all your baby questions. Why do newborns have the hiccups so often? Which foods do I need to avoid when breastfeeding? Why do babies cry in their sleep? What’s the best nap length? How often do I need to bathe the kids?
And those are just the questions you’re searching for at the midnight feed.
All this activity may also put an extra load on your back. Ouch!
Physiotherapist, Brad McIntosh, says this discomfort is completely normal.
“This is really common for new parents. The pain is a normal part of your body adapting to one of the (many) new stresses being placed on it,” he says.
The good news is there are many good back stretches to help move your spine in the opposite direction. Brad says, “Back stretches may give the muscles and ligaments in your spine a well-deserved rest.”
Brad shares his top six upper and lower back stretches for new parents.
Cat pose is one of the most popular lower back stretches.
1. Cat-cow stretch
Brad says this is one of the most popular lower back stretches.
Start on your hands and knees with your back in a neutral position. Arch your back downwards, lifting your head up and pushing your tailbone out, making a dish with your spine. Hold this position for a few seconds.
Next, bend your back upwards by tucking your head and tailbone in and pulling your belly button towards your spine. You’re aiming to make a curve through your back.
Hold this position and repeat 8-10 times.
2. Thread the needle
An upper back stretch you could do to stretch your shoulders and sides.
Start by lying on your front and then bring yourself up onto your hands and knees. Your hands should be under your shoulders and your hips over your knees.
Take one hand off the floor, reach in and through between your other hand and leg on that side.
Allow your shoulder and head to follow, moving down towards the floor as your hand reaches through. Allow your back to twist.
You should feel a stretch down your side, shoulder blade and neck.
Hold and then relax. Repeat 8-10 times on each side.
Child’s pose is a yoga stretch for the lower back that may help you feel calmer too.
3. Child’s pose stretch
This is one of those yoga stretches for the lower back that’s also good to help you calm down when you need it. Brad says to hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat twice.
Get onto your hands and knees and drop your buttocks back onto your heels. Stretch your hands forward, dropping your head between your shoulders towards the floor.
You will feel this stretch through your back and upper arms.
Don’t forget your breathing.
Mermaid stretches for a sore lower back are the best kind of stretches.
4. Seated mermaid stretch
Mermaid stretches for a sore lower back are the best kind of stretches. Who doesn’t want to be a mermaid? Again, Brad suggests 8-10 reps of this stretch on each side.
Sit in a Z shape on the floor. Think about lifting your lower waist into a C curve.
Breathing out, lift your top arm over. Breathe in to hold and then breathe out as you rotate your chest and hand to come towards the floor. Breathe in to hold here and as you breathe out, rotate out of the stretch.
5. Seated trunk rotation
You should feel this stretch right through your torso.
Sit upright in a chair and rotate your body round to one side, using your arms on the back of the chair to pull yourself round further. Return to the centre and repeat 8-10 times on each side.
While you’re there, you could also do your pelvic floor physiotherapy exercises to make the most of it.
6. Roll down against wall
If you’re looking for lower back stretches you could do while standing, Brad says this is a great option.
Stand up straight with your back to a wall, your spine in a neutral position and your feet hip-width apart. Ensure your back makes contact with the wall.
Let your arms relax along the sides of your body.
As you inhale, lengthen your spine.
As you exhale, roll down all the way to the floor. As you roll down, imagine you’re trying to peel your spine off the wall one vertebra at a time starting from the top.
Reach your hands towards the floor. Once you have reached as far as you can, hold this position for one inhale.
As you exhale, roll your spine back to the upright position, touching one vertebra at a time to the wall.
Repeat 8-10 times.
Back pain and stiffness are quite common for new parents, but there are stretches you can do to help.
When to seek help for back pain
While stretches may help in alleviating discomfort, it is important to know when to seek help for back pain. As advised by the Australian government’s Health Direct, “If you have back pain and have lost feeling or movement in your limbs or are having problems controlling your bowels or bladder, call triple 000 immediately and ask for an ambulance.”
You should see your doctor or other health care professional for further advice if:
- your pain bothers you
- your back pain doesn’t improve after a few weeks or worsens
- you have symptoms such as weight loss, tingling or numbness in the legs or problems with bladder and/or bowel control
- you have weak or brittle bones
- you have a history of certain chronic diseases
- you are prone to infection
- you use intravenous drugs
Support through your new parenthood journey
Just when you think the hard part is over, you realise it’s only just beginning.
Whether it’s back pain or questions about breastfeeding, support is available. You’ve got this.
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Brad McIntosh is a highly-trained and well-regarded physiotherapist with a particular clinical and research interest in knee rehabilitation.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board November 2021.