Can Exercising Too Soon After the Birth cause Back Pain?

After the birth of your baby, no matter how fit or toned you are, it takes a MINIMUM of 8 weeks before your stomach muscles are toned enough to support your lower back and pelvis. This means that if you go back too soon to running, sport or higher impact exercise then there is a lot more movement in your lower back than there should be. There is no way that your abdominal muscles can go from being really stretched during pregnancy (think of how long they are at the end of your pregnancy), to being shortened and firm enough to provide the support they used to for your back and pelvis.

If you watch people walking or running, you will notice that some people's backs don't move a lot at all, whereas in others their back and pelvis really wobbles from side to side. This can be the case in those first few months after the birth, where your spine is not as stable as it usually is. If you add impact or running type of activities to this, then there is a lot more strain going through your spine and pelvis than there should be. Combine this with the effects of the hormone relaxin affecting the ligaments in your body for up to 3 - 4 months after the birth, and there is more chance that could injure your back.

The post natal abdominal bracing tests and exercises that are in the booklet As Your Shape Changes, are designed to improve the strength and tone in your lower abdominals, and to improve the support that your abdominals give to your lower back and pelvis. When you miss these stages of exercises out, you may be left with an underlying weakness in the deeper abdominal muscles which help to support your lower back.

When you return to sport, even if you do wait until 3 - 4 months, then you may still find yourself with a lower back injury at some stage. The other thing at this time is that when you have a new baby to look after, your back needs to be strong now and for the future. You are doing more activities which can potentially place strain on your back, so your back is more vulnerable. For this added reason, use the exercises in As Your Shape Changes, even if you do not plan to go back to higher impact exercise right now or at all.

When you consider that waiting a few more weeks or months could save you from having problems in the future, it is worth the wait. Have a read of Ciara's story and see an example of what going back too soon can do.

Ciara's story (used with permission)

Over 10 years ago, Ciara (not her real name) had her first baby. She enjoyed exercising and how good it made her feel. She was in the habit of exercising before the birth, so she was looking forward to getting back into it after her baby was born.

Back then there was not a lot of information about returning back to sport or exercise safely after having a baby. Ciara had never suffered an injury before, so she thought that she would be OK. She never considered what might follow.

Ciara was playing tennis 6 weeks after the birth. She took a shot, and put her back out, being bent over with the pain for weeks to follow. She remembers having to cope with carrying and changing her new baby with back pain, and how hard this was. It took quite a few weeks for the pain to go away, with Physiotherapy treatment needed to help it subside.

A few years later, Ciara had her second baby. Again keen to start exercise, she contacted a Physiotherapist for advice, asking "Will I be able to start running again now that my baby is 5 weeks old?" She was advised that as long as she felt OK, there should be no problem, as there wasn't a lot of other information around at the time regarding this.

Ciara started exercising at the gym and running 5 weeks after the birth. As she started to work harder and push herself more, her back started to hurt. She was used to pushing herself with exercise however in the past, so she continued to run even when her back hurt, for about a year.

As her pain increased however, she eventually had to stop running and have more Physiotherapy treatment. The unfortunate thing was that in the end, it took quite some time for her back to settle down, and she needed to take 2 years off running.

After this, Ciara was able to resume running, but has had several less episodes of back pain since then.

NOTE:  Ciara had taken the time to ask advice, however the information available at the time was limited. There are now new Pregnancy and Post natal Exercise Guidelines exercise which should be followed when returning to sport or exercise.

It is also important to get the correct advice that you should see or ask a health or fitness professional with interest or experience in the area that you are asking them about.



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