As parents, the postpartum period can be an amazing and special time. It can also feel overwhelming and stressful as we adjust to life with a new small person depending on us for their every need. Postpartum neck and midback pain are common complaints experienced by many new parents, whether it is baby #1 or baby #5. This can often add to these feelings of stress and overwhelm; and possibly limit your movements in day to day activities. The good news is, generally there is no serious underlying cause for this pain, and there is help available!
DO THESE SOUND FAMILIAR?
- Carrying your baby for long periods, or in what feels like awkward positions.
- Holding baby in one arm while doing your daily activities or while helping/holding/playing with older children.
- Baby finally falling asleep on you then you find yourself in an awkward position, but you don’t want to move because it has taken a while for baby to settle.
- Feeding positions, whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, especially if you are in one position for a long period of time.
- Stress from things such as broken sleep; worrying if you are doing this parenting thing right; trying to keep up with housework and errands.
Stress, poor posture, prolonged carrying and feeding positions can place fatigue and stress on the muscles and joints in the neck and midback, potentially contributing to the pain you are experiencing.
WHAT CAN I DO AT HOME TO TRY AND DECREASE MY PAIN?
Some things you can try at home that may offer temporary reduction or relief from postpartum neck and midback pain and tightness include*:
- Wrap up a warm heat pack or hot water bottle in a towel and place on your neck and midback area for 10 minutes.
- Head out of the house and go for a walk, even 15-20 minutes can help reduce stress and muscle tension.
- Stretches: Hold these at a gentle stretch feeling for 10-20 seconds each side, and perform a couple of times a day.
* This is general advice only. It is advisable that you get an assessment from your health care provider prior to performing any of these exercises.
While seated, with your neck in a neutral position, tilt your head so that one ear is reaching down towards that shoulder. You should feel a gentle stretch on the other side of your neck. If not, gently rest the arm of the same side as your neck is tilted on top of your head to increase the stretch.
LEVATOR SCAPULAE STRETCH
While seated, with your neck in a neutral position, turn your head so that your nose is pointing towards one shoulder , then bend your neck down towards that shoulder. You should feel a gentle stretch on the other side of your neck. If not, gently rest the arm of the same side as your nose is pointing towards on top of your head to increase the stretch.
CHIN TUCK EXERCISE
While standing or seated, with your neck in a neutral position, gently tuck your chin back towards your ears while keeping your neck and the top of your head still. (Practicing in the mirror may be beneficial). Repeat 5-6 times.
BOOK OPENER EXERCISE
Lay on the floor on one side, with your ankles, hips and shoulders in one line, and a pillow under your head if you need it. Bring your hands out in front of you so that they are in line with your shoulders. Take 4 seconds to lift the top arm up and over your body towards the floor behind you, WITHOUT twisting your lower back. You may feel a gentle stretch through the front of the shoulder, but it should not be painful – if it is, do not lower the arm as far down. Slowly bring your arm back to the starting point. Repeat 10 times each side.
FOAM ROLLER CHEST STRETCH
Stack 3-4 bath towels open on the floor and roll them up lengthways to create a tube, or use a long foam roller. Lay on top so that your head and spine are supported by the towel or foam roller. Have your knees bent, and rest your elbows onto the floor in line with your shoulders. You should feel a gentle stretch through the chest and front of the shoulders. Lay here for 1-3 minutes and take some gentle deep breaths.
*This is general advice only. It is advisable that you get an assessment from your health care provider prior to performing any of these exercises.*
HOW CAN CHIROPRACTIC CARE HELP?
Our Chiropractors use a combination of different treatments and exercises to help with neck and midback pain. These treatments are tailored to each individual, in line with current evidence based guidelines. Treatment is only performed once we have completed a thorough history and examination to identify the cause of your neck and midback pain. Treatment during your appointment may include:
- Adjustments and mobilisations of the joints in the spine to improve their movement and function, and help decrease pain.
- Soft tissue techniques, including massage, dry needling, and stretches, to help decrease pain and tightness.
- Remedial Massage Therapy.
- Rehab exercises to strengthen the neck and midback muscles.
- Functional exercises tailored to how far postpartum you are, your level of fitness, and making them achievable in your busy day.
- Advice on activities to change or avoid to help resolve your pain quickly.
- Bussières, A.E et al. (2016). The treatment of neck pain-associated disorders and whiplash-assoicated disorders: A clinical practice guideline. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 39(8): 523-564.
- Lin, I, et al. (2019). What does best practice care for musculoskeletal pain look like? Eleven consistent recommendations from high-quality clinical practice guidelines: systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 0:1-10.