Motherhood is one of the top 10 most “backbreaking” jobs, according to a July/August 2016 North American Spine Society (NASS) member survey—but we already knew that. It’s right up there with driver (number one), construction worker (two), nurse (three), and warehouse or factory worker (seven and nine).
What you may not know is the best way to care for your back when you are in full mom mode. Dr. Jaren Riley, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, says the two most important things moms need to focus on for back health are ergonomics (or position), and core strength.
Mind Your Position: As a father of four, Riley understands that children are rarely right in front of you when you need to pick them up. Moms don’t just pick up kids—they reach, twist, and lift, often while bending over at the waist. “It’s the position you’re in when doing the lifting that puts strain on the back,” says Riley. When you lift, squat rather than bend at the waist, and hold your child as close to you as possible. This puts the strain on the legs, which are meant to handle the load, instead of the back.
Keep Your Core Strong: Riley’s second tip is to do core strengthening exercises. “The core is like the trunk on a tree,” he says. If the trunk isn’t strong, the whole tree is weak and easily damaged. He recommends yoga, Pilates, and swimming for building core strength. Riley also suggests finding a physical therapist that can teach back strengthening exercises. A strong core is the basis for better stability, flexibility, power, and even lower risk of injury. “As women strengthen the core, they should notice their core teaching them to do things correctly—how to move,” Riley says.
Because some days the car feels like a second home, pay attention to your back while driving. Remember, driver was the number one most backbreaking job. Besides long stretches of sitting, moms do a lot of twisting, reaching, and pulling in the car that can hurt the back, notes Riley. Be mindful of your movements in the car, and build a strong core that will lead your body to better positioning. NASS also suggests taking regular walk and stretch breaks, and adjusting your seat for comfort and support.