New midlife mum’s prescription: A piece of ginger a day to keep back pain at bay
Most women suffer from lower back pain in the first few months after having a baby because of increased hormones and I’ll admit I got off lightly in those first few months.
It was only as Cyrus became heavier that I noticed the stress he was putting on my back because my abdominal muscles had been stretched, separated, and could not support my upper body as well as before I’d given birth.
As a new mum at 40, carrying and lifting baby C frequently, I knew I needed to address the pain straight away. Now I could have visited a chiropractor or an expensive back specialist, but I’d suggest giving my eight tips below a go before you splash your cash.
So, Tip 1:
The best way to reduce back pain is to strengthen the abdominal muscles, something I learned during those very first few weeks with KeepFitMammy’s boot camp. The inner most layer of abdominals, the transverse abdominis, goes all around your trunk and, when activated, takes pressure off of your lower back.
The way to strengthen the transverse correctly is by pulling your belly button into your spine. Once I mastered this on my hands and knees, I started to do it standing up and bending over. So every time I reach over into the cot or into a pushchair/carseat to pick up Cyrus, I bring my belly button into my spine to activate this muscle.
It’s also important to bend your knees! I always try to bend from my knees, not my back, when picking Cyrus up. The more you use your legs, the more you’ll take pressure off your back. In general, I must pick Cyrus up at least 30 times a day – so this is a must for me.
At the moment, I’m trying to strengthen my legs and reinforce proper positioning when I pick Cyrus up by holding him to my chest and doing squats with my feet a little wider than hip width apart. At 8.5kg, he’s heavier than what I used to lift in my Les Mills’ Body Pump class, so I’m probably getting a better daily workout – albeit I miss the music. I also always keep him close to my chest to try and avoid twisting.
I try to avoid holding him on my hip. When you hold a baby on one side, it forces the hip upward on that side and the spine to slump forward and sideways. This causes the spine to be held in an awkward strained position. When the weight of your body leans away from the vertical position, your muscles must work overtime to hold your body up and your joints are loaded in an imbalanced way.
Although I haven’t been as active as I’d like recently – and that’s 100 per cent to do with our finances – keeping fit by just walking around walking helps my body withstand the strain of carrying Cyrus.
When I get upper back pain I try to strengthen the muscles behind my shoulder blades. As I hold Cyrus for long periods of time, I need to build up these muscles. I bring my shoulder blades together (keeping my shoulders down) and hold for 20 seconds. Then I increase the time until I can hold it for a minute and a half.
Stretching out my back helps ease back pain. I lie on my back and hug my knees into my chest. It’s good to close your eyes, breathe and focus on releasing the muscles of your back when you exhale. Two minutes a day makes a massive difference. I will then stay on my back, drop my knees to one side and bring my arms by my sides for one minute.
To help combat back pain when I was breastfeeding, I would always bring baby C to me rather than bending over him and I placed him on a supportive pillow.
Tip 8 (and the most important prescription for me)
Research has shown that ginger may reduce pain caused by inflammatory diseases. The most important tip I can give any older mum is to eat ginger daily and throw out the ibuprofen. I actually started eating it during winter to stave off cold, but when I found it gave me energy, I’ve been eating it ever since. Every morning, myself and H eat a small piece of fresh raw ginger or make it as a tea. It’s worked wonders on my back pain, but it’s also given me more energy than I had before and got rid of my sugar craving. It’s important not to consume more than 2g of ginger a day and also check with your GP if you have any medical conditions first.