When Motherhood is a Pain in the Back: 3 Exercises to Help

opposite_arm_leg Got that certain ache in your lower back that arrived along with your baby? Cindy Furey of Comprehensive Therapy Services, Inc., gave Breezy Mama the low down as to why we moms get it, what to do to prevent it and exercises to ease the discomfort.

Why We Get It
“Mommy Back” occurs for a number of reasons. The most prevalent reason is the change in our posture during our pregnancy that usually doesn’t return to our previous level postural alignment unless we really work at it. Our head tends to lurch forward, our shoulders round forward as our thoracic spine leans back to compensate for the pelvis (and baby) shifting forward and under. This posture causes more compression on the lower part of our spine. Our back muscles try to kick in to help stabilize the spine because our abdominals become overstretched and sometimes even split (diastasis rectus). When we add the physical demands of caring for our kids — including carrying the baby, lugging around the diaper bag and the car seat, breast feeding, added laundry duties, and grocery shopping — our back muscles become overworked, tired and tight.

Think Tall
The best thing to do to combat Mommy Back is to simply correct your posture by “thinking really tall” even when you are really tired. You can do this immediately postpartum or correct your posture months down the rode. “Thinking Tall” by pretending you are suspended from the top of your head lengthens your spine, opening up space between the vertebrae, and it kicks in your abdominals and pelvic floor without thinking about it too much. Think tall every chance you get: when walking, talking on the phone, nursing, standing in line at the grocery — tall.

Strengthen Your Core
You can also take the pressure off your back by strengthening your core muscles. Have your physical therapist or physician check for hernias and diastasis rectus prior to starting any abdominal exercise program. Also make sure your exercise technique is correct. Performing core exercises incorrectly can lead to further pressure on your back and worsen an already compromised abdominal wall.


Exercises to Help
Beginner exercises include the Pelvic Tilt, Cat/Camel and 4 point alternate arm/leg:

Pelvic Tilt

pelvic_tilt Position yourself on your back with knees bent. Pull your belly button to your spine as you tilt your pelvis up and exhale. Relax back down and repeat 20 times.


Position yourself on all fours with knees aligned under hips and hands under shoulders. Pull your belly button to your spine and round your back to the ceiling. Your head should drop as you exhale. Let your back relax and sag, raising your head as you inhale. Repeat 20 times. cat_camel

4 Point Alternate Arm/Leg

opposite_arm_leg Position yourself squarely on all fours. Maintain a flat back by pulling your belly button to your spine. Reach out with one arm and the opposite leg, maintaining your balance. Return to start. Repeat and alternate sides for 20 repetitions.

Another quick tip is to remember your stretching program. Short muscles increase stress on your pelvis and back. Take time to stretch out your hips, especially your quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors and piriformis.

breezy_deal1Breezy Tip: Still in pain? Consider seeing a physical therapist. Most are covered by insurance and Cindy recommends this site for finding one in your area: http://www.womenshealthapta.org/plp/index.cfm (Scroll down to find your state).

csCindy Furey, PT started Comprehensive Therapy Services, Inc., a full service physical therapy clinic in San Diego, which specializes in Women’s Health and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in 1997. Cindy graduated from Northwestern University Physical Therapy in 1990. CTS is now a multi-disciplinary clinic, including physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, psychology, personal training and clinical nutrition for clients battling the conditions of incontinence, pelvic pain, prolapse, and obstetrical/gynecological/urological complications. Cindy’s ongoing continuing education in the areas of orthopedics, women’s health, and pelvic floor is extensive. She also works as guest professor at the University of St. Augustine Physical Therapy Program here in San Diego. Cindy Furey, PT partners in research projects, educates the fellows in physical therapy options for clients, and participates in grand rounds with UCSD Pelvic Medicine and the Naval Medical Center San Diego-Balboa. She is currently involved in the Interstitial Cystitis Collaborative Research Network for the study of manual physical therapy effects on bladder pain. She is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association Section on Women’s Health, International Pelvic Pain Society, National Vulvodynia Association, and Vulvar Pain Foundation. She lectures throughout the local San Diego community on topics in Physical Therapy and Women’s Health. She is the proud mama of a 2 year old daughter.

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  1. Dear Cindy,

    I found your article through Google.

    I suffer with PFD and have had it for over four years. I am a member of Kaiser Permanente and I live in the San Fernando Valley. (Studio City, CA)

    My question for you is, do you know any qualified therapists that deal with my condition in my area? Kaiser has been no help at all. I am a patient of the Pain Clinic there and all they do is give me narcotics for the pain. I know that there is a better way to get relief or even cure my condition. If you could shoot me an email I would very much appreciate it.

    Thank you for your time,

    Pamela Moskovitz

  2. Hi Pamela,
    Cindy responded to your question:
    Yes, you can contact Custom Physical Therapy.
    325 Rolling Oaks DR
    Thousand Oaks, CA

    805 446 3141

    They also have an office in Woodland Hills.

  3. I’m going to try your excercises tonight. Hopefully they will give me some relief.

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