There’s a big difference between lifting a 10-pound weight at the gym, and carrying a baby all day, every day. If you’re a new mama, it’s natural to feel some strain in your back. One of the best ways to avoid and relieve lower back pain after pregnancy is to strengthen the core as soon as possible after pregnancy.
New mom and certified trainer, Joanna Castro, says engaging your core is more important than ever postpartum. “New moms experience lots of lower back pain simply because your abdomen has been stretched to its max, which weakens it. Make sure you are not using your back and that instead, you are using your core and legs to help lift your baby off the ground. Form is everything when preventing injury, and you want to make sure you are staying injury-free, especially when you have a little person depending on you to maintain a healthy body and mind.”
Mahri Relin, a NASM certified personal trainer, and pre/post natal exercise specialist, gives moms tips to counteract back pain and show them how to strengthen the core muscles. With variations depending on your postpartum recovery, these moves will have you feeling like heavy-lifting pro in no time.
Exercises to Strengthen the Core:
One way of thinking about performing a kegel is to engage the muscles that stop the flow of urine. You might also want to imagine drawing up and tightening the muscles from the front opening of the vagina to the rectum as if you’re lifting a hammock. Make sure to keep your buttocks relaxed. Pull up these muscles and hold for ten seconds and release. Repeat 2-5 times per day.
Pulses in Tabletop
1) Lie on your back, and place your hands under your pelvis to prop it up into a slightly tilted position. Keep the feeling of the lower abs pulling tightly into the spine, and you can even try using your kegel muscles as well. Keep them constantly engaged as much as you can, which will also help prevent putting too much of the work in this exercise in the hip flexors.
2) Lift both legs into a “tabletop” position (legs bent at a 90-degree angle with your shins parallel to the ground). You can always lift your legs a little higher if you feel any strain on your back.
3) In this position, gently pulse both legs up and down with very small movements, keeping your abs engaged and pulled in at all times. (The pulse comes from the feet going towards the ground and back up again with very small lifting and lowering movements.) Do this 25 times.
Variation #1: Toe Tapping
1) Tap your right toe down to the ground, then lift back up to tabletop. Repeat 20 times on the right and 20 on the left. For more difficulty, try tapping your toes farther away from the body.
2) Once you feel comfortable with this, trying “running” the legs, alternately tapping each toe down to the ground. Keep your abs constantly engaged and pulled into the spine. Complete 20 sets of runs.
Variation #2: Diamond
1) From tabletop position, open your knees, and keep your feet together. Pulse the legs up and down in this position 25x
Stretching to Relieve the Back:
Double-Pigeon on the Back
1) Lie on your back, and start by bending both knees into your chest. This is a great stretch on its own, so stay here as long as you want.
2) Cross one leg over the over so that both knees are touching each other.
3) Grab the opposite foot in each hand (your right hand grabs the left foot and vice versa), pull your feet out to the sides as much as possible with the knees together, and then pull each foot down towards you simultaneously. You should feel the stretch in each outer hip.
4) Repeat on the other side.