Postpartum moms undergo the most musculoskeletal aches and pains due to the hormonal changes, structural changes, and functional changes. The postpartum body has to heal from birth, provide both food and care to a newborn, and faces many new positions as they hold their new baby. The aches and pains include, but are not limited to: neck pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, wrist pain, hip pain, and low back pain. The new mom has gone from her pregnant body, which in and of itself had significant changes over 10 months, to her postpartum body that has been fatigued and weakened. The new postpartum body must heal from birth (vaginal or caesarian section) and rebuild the weakened core.
The relaxin that was in the body during pregnancy to help loosen the ligaments to prepare for widening of the pelvis for birth remains in the body up to four months after breastfeeding.
The most common pains postpartum are in the neck and midback. This is due to carrying the baby, nursing/feeding the baby, sleeping in unusual positions, and more. The midback and neck become restricted and the muscles become chronically tight. Without doing any self-care, the problem often builds and can become chronic.
Another common pain postpartum is in the pelvis and low back, which is due to holding the baby and also from the unstable pelvis due to the relaxin during pregnancy. The relaxin can remain in the body up to four months post breastfeeding. This means the pelvis can remain unstable for longer than we expect. Gentle adjusting can maintain proper pelvic function and rehab care can help strengthen the areas around the pelvis to gain the stability needed to help reduce the pain.
There is also rib pain that can be described as pain with breathing, pain with any upper body movement, sharp, and stabbing. A rib has the ability to be “out”/”subluxated” and can cause enough pain, some patients even go to the ER. The ribs can commonly go out due to the relaxin in the system creating lose ligaments and from the new positions parents find themselves in as they hold their baby. This type of pain is very simple to relieve by a simple adjustment and some muscle work.
There are many other areas of pain during this time for mothers. The other common areas of complaint that we see at Gaia Health are both elbow pain and wrist pain. The elbow pain is experienced from sustained elbow flexion that is from holding/cradling the baby. The elbows are not use to 6+ pounds of weight being held for hours on end and pain can result from overuse of the muscles surrounding the elbow. Wrist pain can be from instability due to the relaxin and also overuse from how the baby is held other new parenting tasks.
Overall, the postpartum mom has a lot of areas that can be in pain and discomfort, but they should not remain in pain because they don’t have time to come into the office or don’t have the energy to pack up the baby (and their other kids). Gaia Health offers the ability to be treated in the clinic or in the comfort of your own home.
What can we do at Gaia Health for the Postpartum Mama?
Adjustments/Mobilizations: This is a way in which we manually help the body obtain alignment. Gaia Health specializes in working with the postpartum moms. The doctor has been through the postpartum experience herself and understands the need for a gentle adjustment. The body changes during this time and therefore the adjusting needs to be done with lighter force. Often times moms in the postpartum period find that the chiropractor they saw prior to pregnancy is no longer a good fit due to their style of adjusting.
Gaia health can provide chiropractic adjustments that use light force to help regain proper movement. Mobilizations can also be used as a gentle form of adjusting that through repetition of the joint through its range of motion can help the body regain the proper position and movement.
Manual Muscle Work: We believe at Gaia Health to get the best results there should be a combination of muscle work and adjustments. Muscle work is done to help the muscle relax and release muscular tension. With the postpartum body these muscles are doing their job of stabilizing the area that the body feels is unstable, but unfortunately the muscles doing their job can result in tightness and soreness for the patient.
Muscle Energy Work: This is a method that uses the contraction of specific muscles in specific muscle patterns to help balance the pelvis. This can also be used to help muscle activate at the proper times to help create symmetrical movement. Asymmetric movement is a common cause of injury. The pelvis of the postpartum mom can have significant pain, but muscle energy work is a way to help manage that pain when at home.
Rehabilitation and Home Care: Giving moms the tools they need to care for them is one of the foundations of Gaia Health. We empower women to get the care they need and provide them with skills to care for themselves at home. The home care can include trigger point therapy, stretching, muscle energy work, posture changes, and functional changes. Functional changes are changing how we do things throughout our day that can be the root cause of pain. A mom with pain in right low back could be from placing the baby’s car seat in the car. This would be an avenue that we would work on how to better perform this to avoid the low back pain.
The rehab care also includes a significant amount of core work to reduce the separation of the abs and rebuild the strength of the core (abs, low back, pelvic floor, and diaphragm). The core needs to be strong and functional before the postpartum mom should begin challenging workouts.