If you are a postpartum mom or parent and are experiencing headache, neck pain, or shoulder pain, know that you are not alone. About 50% of people will report neck, shoulder, or headache pains during the postpartum period.
This is because during this period, you are likely:
- Performing many repetitive tasks throughout the day
- Still very flexible due to hormonal changes and not able to correct your posture
- Fatigued and stressed and potentially holding tension in your body
- Holding your baby for long periods during the day
- Experiencing muscle imbalances and weakness from pregnancy and/or birth
The good news is that with a few simple changes and adjustments, you can reduce and eventually get rid of this pesky head, neck, and shoulder pain. I know you likely don’t have any spare time during this already full time in your life, so the following tips should not take much time out of your day at all!
Read on to discover how you can help your pain right now!
Tip 1 – Perform a small head nod with baby holding, leaning over, and prolonged postures.
Your head weighs a good 8-10 pounds. For every inch that your head moves forward from your shoulders and the rest of your body, that increases the weight and strain on the muscles at the base of your skull and back of your neck exponentially.
With all the baby holding and bending over you are doing, its easy to get tired and not realize your head has travelled pretty far forward! Think about keeping your head stacked over your shoulders and perform a small chin nod where you gently drop your chin down toward your chest.
Make sure while holding your baby you keep your shoulders relaxed and you use pillows and also supportive devices to prop you and your baby up!
LEFT: head too far forward, shoulders hunched. RIGHT: Head stacked over shoulders, shoulders and body relaxed.
Tip 2 – Keep your mid-back flexible
There is a direct correlation between neck pain and your mid back and ribs being stiff. To loosen this area up, roll on a foam roller twice a day for 1-2 minutes.
Perform one of our favorite stretches, ‘rising sun’ pictured below, 8-10 repetitions each side, twice daily for relief of mid and upper back stiffness.
Tip 3 – Get your shoulders, back, and neck strong
Strengthening the back of your body, your neck, and your shoulders can be really helpful for reducing neck pain. You want your focus to be on your deep neck muscles, your rotator cuff, and your back postural muscles. Try these two exercises out to help with your pain:
Rotator Cuff Strengthener:
- Lay on your side and place a small pillow or towel roll under your top elbow.
- Squeeze your shoulder blade muscles of the top shoulder so you pull your shoulder back toward your spine.
- Lift your hand and forearm up towards the ceiling until your arm is about parallel to the ground.
- Hold for 1 second, then slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat x15 reps for 2 rounds and perform 3-4x/week.
- Fold a hand towel lengthwise and then roll it into a small (3-inch diameter) roll.
- Lie flat on your back with no pillow, and place the roll under the bumps on the base of your skull.
- Let your head be very heavy relaxing all the muscles of your neck.
- Gently and slightly nod your head yes as you exhale. Repeat 10-20 times for up to 3-5 minutes.
If you are postpartum and experiencing neck or shoulder pain or headaches don’t hesitate to find a Physical Therapist to help you. A Physical Therapist is the perfect person to help you so you can focus on your family!
If you are in the Portland Metro area, give us a call at (503)295-2585 to connect with one of our PTs today! Our clinic is located in Tigard and we are experts at working with the postpartum population. If you are not local, check out our blog on how to find a good PT to find someone to connect with in your area!