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In this week’s article we’re discussing why if you’re a new mother or father, you might be experiencing neck or back pain. It’s a common complaint we see in new parents and manifests itself as soreness in the neck or upper back, sometimes extending into the shoulder as well. This stiffness often occurs as a result of carrying a baby, infant or toddler while trying to multi-task at the same time. We’re going to explain why you might be experiencing this type of pain, and therefore try and understand how you can prevent it happening in the first place or relieve the problem if you do already have it.

So why are you more predisposed to experiencing neck and upper back pain when carrying a baby? Babies and infants in general do grow very quickly, usually much faster than parents are able to build their muscle to support increased load-bearing. If you’re carrying a small child more on your hip or in both hands, it locks up the entire of the rib cage section of your body. So when you then start to multitask, you move your neck a lot more than your upper back. Turning the focus back to your rib-cage area, the thoracic spine, when you carry things for a long time the muscles in that area tend to tense up. You might notice pain, stiff muscles or tension in your mid-back. While that area is locked, we start twisting the neck a lot in order to navigate around the house or while you’re out and about. This creates irritation because we have a lot of mobility in the neck and this meets the stiffness and immobility in the thoracic spine. While you might expect to grow more used to this the more that you carry your baby or infant, the baby is only going to get heavier.

How Your Posture Changes Holding A Baby

If you’re carrying your baby in a carrier on your front, you might notice your body overcompensate for the weight by leaning back. This may also be noticeable when carrying the baby on your hip, but there will generally be more compensating if you’re carrying it in the front. Although you may feel like when you first put the carrier on, that you may not be overcompensating, as you get more tired throughout the day or just in general, lack of sleep as a new parent can certainly affect this, you will start to compensate for the weight by leaning back. Leaning backwards shifts the weight to a different position and can counterbalance the weight more effectively, but you might notice your head starting to come forward. This changes the positioning of your lower back because it exaggerates the curve in your lumbar spine, potentially causing lower back pain. It can also exaggerate a forward head posture which can cause neck pain and headaches. If you’ve ever lifted any kind of weights at the gym, you’ll know that as your body fatigues and muscles become tired that your form will start to suffer, the same is true here.

Exercises We Would & Wouldn’t Recommend

Now the mistake that some people make here is to perform exercises that might not be the best for you. For example, pulling your head forwards as a stretch might seem like it’s performing the opposite of what you’re doing all day, but this is a big mistake as it’s stretching a muscle that’s already being overworked mechanically and the muscles are not working effectively. You’ll also have an element of repetitive stress and strain on the joints in the lower and upper part of your neck. An exercise you can do to help counteract and relieve the problem, involves doing just the opposite of what you’re spending your day doing. Lie on your back, on the floor preferably, with a very small rolled up towel – about the width of a water bottle – placed under your neck. Do check and watch the video if you’d like a more specific demonstration of how to perform this stretch. This stretch supports the neck’s natural backward bending curve position, and takes the pressure off all of these discs in the neck that are being compressed all day due to the forward head posture. It also takes a lot off the muscles on the back of your spine, so they can have a break. Spend 2-5 minutes there a couple of times a day, especially after activities where you’re going to be compressing your neck, for example after washing up, or after you’ve been out and about walking around. Using this for a few minutes a day can be very relieving and just relieve some of that mechanical compression.

How To Deal With Inflammation

If you’re feeling the pain is worse than usual, or you’re going through a flare-up, using ice over the neck as opposed to the muscles where you might be experiencing the tension, can help to relieve the inflammation. A lot of people tend to opt for heat when their muscles are tense, but this can cause further inflammation, so it’s worth assessing if you’ve been using heat if it’s actually given you any long-term relief besides a couple of hours afterwards. Even simply using ice there can be room for error if you’re not completely aware of your positioning. A lot of people can hold the ice-pack on their neck but also bend it forwards at the same time they hold the pack there. This isn’t going to do you any favours and can stress the neck out further. Instead, if you’re wearing a shirt of some kind try and tuck it into the collar, or if that’s not possible perhaps secure with a scarf instead. Keep the ice on for no longer than 5 minutes at a time, multiple times a day and that’ll be a lot more effective at decreasing inflammation in your neck.

Making those two small changes to your everyday routine can help prevent the neck pain from becoming more of a chronic problem. If the problem is getting worse and you’re struggling to bring it under control, or it’s causing you persistent pain on a daily basis, by all means reach out to us to see how we can help you more specifically. If you’d like to get in touch to see how we can help, call us on 0203 947 3222 or email us at info@themayfairclinic.com.

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