Your body changes so much during pregnancy to accommodate for your growing baby. Not only do hormone influxes change the flexibility of your joints and pelvis to prepare for childbirth, but your posture changes to manage your shifting center of gravity caused by your growing baby bump.
These postural changes tend to lead to issues postpartum including pain and feelings of weakness, which is difficult since now you have a newborn to take care of!
Here are three simple exercises to work into your daily routine to help fix your postpartum posture and provide immediate pain relief! The following exercises are safe to do at any time during the postpartum period.
While pregnant, it can be hard to take a deep breath and get the full rib expansion and spinal mobility that your body is used to. Your low back also might feel tense and tight from the increase in curvature of your low back since being pregnant. Practicing breathing in the 4-point / hands and knees position is a wonderful way to get that expansion and mobility back into your spine!
- Get on the ground on your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- Find neutral spine. You can do this by gently tipping your pelvis forward and backward and find where the middle is between these two motions. Your back should have a slight arch in your low back.
- Take a nice, deep inhale. Think about your inhale taking at least 3 seconds and getting your breath to expand your ribs away from each other. Get that breath to go into your mid back as well and feel that expansion up toward the ceiling.
- Exhale and relax back into neutral spine. Allow your exhale to take a long time (about 7-8 seconds if you can!) and breathe out through your mouth with pursed lips. Keep your jaw and shoulders relaxed as you do this breathing. Repeat 10 reps, and perform this 3x/day.
Once baby is born we spend a lot of time leaning forward and looking down–be it breast or bottle feeding, changing diapers, or getting the baby dressed, that is a lot of time to be spent with our head and neck forward and our shoulders hunched forward as well! It is important to stretch out our chest and the muscles in front of our shoulders so we can take a deep breath, stand up straighter, and use our shoulder muscles effectively.
- Lay on your back on a foam roller or a rolled up yoga mat or thick beach towel if you don’t have a foam roller.
- Make sure your head and bottom are supported by the foam roller. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the ground.
- Perform a slight head nod so your chin is tucked a little closer to your chest.
- With the back of your hands on the ground, bring your arms out to the side until you are almost making a T shape with your body. Rest here once you feel a stretch across your chest muscles.
- Breathe deeply and hold this position for 1 minute. Repeat 2-3x/day.
Our deep core muscles that provide us with stability are turned off during pregnancy and we need them to come online again postpartum! Especially with prolonged positions of sitting, standing, or bending over, turning on these muscles allow us to feel sturdy and strong again.
Think about bracing your abdominal wall at least 100 times a day to start getting these muscles automatically engaged again.
- While standing or sitting, contract your lower abdominals like someone is cinching a seatbelt across your hips and low abs, gently pulling it tighter and your hip bones drawing together. Be sure to keep your ribs down while you draw your belly button toward your spine just an inch.
- Gentle draw your pelvic floor muscles up and in as if you are holding in urine and holding in gas at the same time. Only squeeze and lift with about 10-15% of your force without squeezing your butt or inner thighs.
- Now imagine there is a zipper running from your tailbone up your spine. Imagine someone is zipping up that zipper, shortening the space between your tailbone and the nape of your neck. Maintain a neutral spine position (a small amount of arch without being completely pressed flat against the ground).
Great posture comes from turning on your lower abs, not from pulling your shoulders back as hard as you can!
Try these exercises out and let us know how it goes. And one more thing, momma—you do NOT have to be in pain. If you are in pain or feeling weak following your pregnancy, find a qualified Physical Therapist who can help you! A Physical Therapist who specializes in postpartum care can help you with abdominal weakness, diastasis recti, low back pain, neck pain, poor posture, incontinence, baby ergonomics, and most importantly, allowing you to feel like yourself again.
If you are in the Portland area, give us a call at 503-295-2585 to schedule an appointment to get rid of your pain and dysfunction. If you live outside Portland, Oregon, we do offer Telehealth visits which are a great way to get the benefits of seeing a PT from the comfort of your own home! You can also read our blog about “How to Find a Good PT” or visit Pelvicrehab.com to find an experienced pelvic rehab practitioner in your area.