woman and baby

Treating Postpartum Back Pain with Physical Therapy

You made it through your pregnancy journey and now you have your beautiful, healthy baby. All those months of discomfort were so worth it and now you can enjoy your little bundle of joy. But now, in addition to nursing your baby, you’re also nursing nagging postpartum back pain.

What Causes Postpartum Back Pain?

Those same pregnancy hormones that loosened your ligaments and joints in preparation for childbirth are still to blame. In addition to that, you are most likely suffering from strained back and abdominal muscles from pushing in the delivery room or pain from a c-section, the lifting of your baby, and possibly from holding your baby the wrong way.

“Low back pain is a common prenatal and postnatal pregnancy concern, but it is treatable with physical therapy,” said Susan George, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, WCS, director of women’s rehab and men’s health for UPMC Centers for Rehab Services. “Strategic strength training, proper body mechanics, management of muscle spasm, and stretching exercises can help alleviate the pain.”

Back and pelvic pain during pregnancy often subside once the baby is born, but that is not the case for approximately one third of women. Education and exercise therapy can help. Your physical therapist can teach you the right exercises and explain how to alter the way you perform some activities to best reduce your pain. He or she can also help you decide if other treatments such as braces or manual therapy are necessary.

“You may benefit from seeing a physical therapist who specializes in women’s health and musculoskeletal disorders,” said Dr. George. “After a thorough evaluation, your physical therapist will customize a treatment plan that works best for you and your needs. This plan will most likely include exercises focused on the muscles around the spine and pelvic floor, as well as strength training, aerobic exercise, and balance training.”

Postpartum Back Pain Treatment

Some simple ways to help alleviate your back pain include the following:

  • Be conscious of how you bend and lift. Always use your legs, not your back, when lifting the baby, stroller, laundry, etc.
  • Maintain proper posture. Don’t hunch over when feeding or cuddling your baby.
  • Do gentle postpartum exercises, like pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises.
  • Use a footrest to elevate your feet when sitting and holding your baby.
  • Try not to stand for long periods of time. Whenever possible, place one foot on a low stool when standing in order to take some pressure off your lower back.
  • Get a massage, either professionally or from your partner to work out muscle soreness.

Physical therapists specializing in women’s health can safely and effectively treat your back pain and other pregnancy-related problems before and after delivery. Learn more about UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ women’s rehab and men’s health, which provides specialized physical therapy for women.