Are you looking for easy and effective postpartum back pain exercises?
You’re in the right place.
After reading this post, you’ll learn why you have postpartum back pain, and what you can do about it.
Ok, let’s get started.
Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.
Ok, moving on.
Why does my back hurt postpartum?
So what’s causing your back to hurt?
There are a few reasons why you might have back pain after having a baby.
Here are the most common causes:
Loose ligaments and joints
During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin.
This hormone is responsible for making your bones and joints more mobile and loose throughout the pregnancy.
While this may sound bad, it’s very important in pregnancy.
Because the ligaments and joints of your hips have to stretch and expand as your uterus continues to grow.
The thing is, this hormone lingers in your body for several weeks after you give birth. (Although it is unclear how long it stays in your system).
As a result, the muscles and joints of your low back are very loose and flexible. This makes them prone to sprains and strains after delivery.
Weakened abdominal muscles
Many cases of back pain are related to weak abdominal muscles.
Your spine is kept in normal anatomic position by the muscles of your core and low back.
When one side is weak, the other side has to compensate.
Unfortunately, pregnancy often causes a weakening of the abdominal muscles.
That’s because your abdominal muscles are stretched and separated as they accommodate the growing uterus.
With a weak link in your core, it’s easy for your low back to pick up the slack and get overworked.
Posture is so important.
After the second trimester, a pregnant uterus is heavy enough to shift your center of gravity forward.
As a result, your pelvis tends to tilt anteriorly.
This anterior tilt is a common culprit for low back pain because it places your low back in a constantly arched position.
If you have back pain and a significant anterior pelvic tilt, you may have found your answer.
Change in sleeping position
Lastly, your sleep posture can also contribute to back pain postpartum.
You have spent the last several months trying to find a comfortable and safe sleeping position throughout your pregnancy.
Sometimes, the most comfortable position isn’t the healthiest for your joints or your back.
Now that you’re postpartum, you will have to re-establish a healthy sleeping posture. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to fix it later on.
So as you can see, back pain postpartum can be multifactorial.
One study found that up to 65% of women experience persistent or recurrent back pain up to 14 months after delivery!
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do about it.
How do you get rid of back pain after pregnancy?
So how do you get rid of back pain after pregnancy?
Here are a few things you can begin doing right now to help.
The first thing that you need to focus on is…
Posture is really important for your day-to-day life. It is the biggest factor in maintaining a healthy body and joint range of motion. I have written an entire article on how to fix your posture in the postpartum.
Do your absolute best to avoid:
- leaning forward when sitting down, and
- sitting all day
Always stand with your chest proud and sit with your spine as straight as you can.
A little postural change can go a long way.
Get The PDF!
Get yourself a copy of the PPT’s Posture Correction Guide for just $7. It goes over 18 different exercises you can do to improve your posture and mobility; plus a 6 week workout template you can do in the comfort of your home!
Pay attention to how you lift things
The second thing that you need to pay attention to is how you lift things.
When you pick your baby up from the floor, it is important that you squat down and use your legs to help you.
Never bend over from your torso. When in doubt, always keep your back flat when standing, sitting, or lifting.
Learn to use your core
On that same note, it is important that you learn how to use your core muscles.
Having a strong core is key for a healthy back.
One systematic review of four randomized controlled trials found that core stability training can be effective in relieving postpartum back pain.
The postpartum back exercises mentioned later in this post, will focus on teaching you how to develop and use your core muscles.
This exercise sequence will show you how to engage your core muscles the right way.
Engaging your core is especially important whenever you are carrying your baby because your baby’s weight will be unevenly distributed on your spine, and it’s up to you to compensate.
Make sure you activate your booty and ab muscles whenever you are holding your baby!
Sleep in a better position
As I mentioned before you have spent several months sleeping in a tilted position.
It is important to re-learn how to sleep on your back if you suffer from back pain.
Lying on your back with a small pillow underneath your knees is one of the healthiest positions that you can sleep in. This will help put your pelvis in a posterior tilt and keep your spine in the neutral position.
The other option is to sleep on your side with a pillow in between your knees. It may feel strange at first but you will get used to it.
Getting close to your ideal weight
Losing weight postpartum is a lot easier said than done.
However, having excess body fat will place more stress on your joints.
Thankfully, I have an entire post on simple ways to lose fat postpartum.
Strengthen your core and glute muscles
So without further ado, let’s go over the best postpartum back pain exercises.
The Best Postpartum Back Pain Exercises (5 Move Sequence)
Before doing any type of exercise, it’s important that you see your doctor first.
You want to make sure that the back pain you are experiencing isn’t something serious that requires urgent treatment.
Like I said earlier, only do these exercises after you are cleared by a medical provider!
Okay, now that that’s out of the way- let’s go over the 5 best postpartum back pain exercises.
These 5 exercises will:
- Strengthen the muscles in your core including:
- The rectus abdominis
- The obliques, and
- The transverse abdominis
- Strengthen your glute muscles, and
- Improve the range of motion of your spine
Here they are:
The pelvic tilt is one of the best exercises to help you realign your hips. Many women suffer from anterior pelvic tilt and this exercise will bring your hips back into a natural position.
It does so by strengthening the rectus abdominis and the transverse abdominis muscles.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent.
- Next, push your belly button down towards the floor to flatten out your lower back.
- This will naturally tilt your pelvis posteriorly.
- Hold this position for a three count and slowly return back to your starting position.
Do 8-10 repetitions per set.
The next exercise is the glute bridge.
Its purpose is to activate your butt muscles and keep your core/trunk stable.
To do it:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Next, squeeze your glutes as hard as you can to extend (straighten) your hips.
- Do not let your low back arch. In fact, you could even posteriorly tilt your pelvis before every repetition to make sure.
- Once you reach the top position, hold for a 3 count.
Do 12 repetitions per set.
Hollow Body Hold
The third exercise in this sequence is the hollow body hold.
This exercise is a bit more advanced and you may have to modify it if can’t do it properly.
The hollow body hold is one of the best ways to strengthen all of the ab muscles at once.
To do it:
- Lay on your back and bring your arms up over your head and stretch your legs out in front of you.
- Flatten your low back against the floor as you did with the pelvic tilt.
- Next, raise your shoulders off the ground to keep your core muscles engaged.
- Do not let your feet touch the ground and hold this position for 20 seconds.
- If this exercise is too difficult you can make it easier by bringing your hands down by your side, or add a slight bend at your knees.
- Do your best to hold each set for 20 seconds.
If you can’t hold this position for 20 seconds then hold it for as long as you can while maintaining proper form, and work your way up.
The fourth exercise in this sequence is the cat-cow.
This exercise improves the mobility of your spine in a safe, unloaded position.
To do it:
- Get into a quadruped position (on your hands and knees).
- Next, you are going to alternate between an arched back position and a rounded back position.
- When arching your back take a big inhale and hold the position for a one count.
- Then exhale as you are rounding your back. Hold the round back position for one second.
- Move slowly between the two positions and pay attention to your breathing. Also, be sure that you do not arch your back too much.
The entire pattern should feel very natural.
Do 8 repetitions in each position for every set.
The fifth and final exercise in the postpartum back pain sequence is the bird-dog.
This exercise is also done from the quadruped position.
To do it:
- Raise one hand out in front of you while straightening out the opposite leg behind you.
- Your back should be completely flat the entire time.
- Make sure that you are squeezing your glutes and activating your core muscles throughout the movement.
- Hold the top position for a 3 count and return to the starting position.
Repeat for 8 repetitions per side.
After you’re finished going through the sequence I want you to do two stretches.
- The first stretch will help loosen up any tight muscles in the low back.
- The second stretch will help loosen up tight muscles in the hip flexor.
The first stretch is the deep squat. I want you to squat down as low as you possibly can and allow your low back to round.
At the bottom position, you should feel a nice stretch in your lumbar region. It should not be painful. In addition, you should keep your feet flat on the floor.
If you need to, you can also hold onto something to help support and balance yourself at the bottom position.
Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
The second stretch that I want you to do is the standing hip flexor stretch.
Find a chair or box that is at the level of your knee or mid thigh and elevate 1 foot onto that box. Keep your back leg straight, squeeze your glutes, and lean forward.
You should feel a nice stretch on the front side of your hip of the back leg.
Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
This back pain sequence should:
- Strengthen your core,
- Improve your mobility, and
- Help restore your hips into a natural position.
Do this entire sequence once per day, 5 times per week.
Do it at night right before you go to sleep.
How can I strengthen my back after pregnancy?
Believe it or not, you shouldn’t worry about strengthening your back in the postpartum period.
It is a common misconception to think that your back is weak however usually the complete opposite is true.
Your back is tight and overactive due to weakness in your core muscles.
That is why the postpartum back pain sequence focuses on strengthening the core while stretching the low back.
When Should You Seek Help?
It is important that you use this information responsibly.
Severe or extreme back pain postpartum should always prompt an urgent evaluation.
This postpartum back pain sequence should only be used as a supplement to what your providers are telling you.
Other important things to look out for include:
Nerve damage can present itself as incontinence, or involuntary leakage of urine.
Another important thing to look out for is what we call saddle anesthesia. This refers to the loss of sensation in your hips and groin area. This is another sign of serious nerve damage.
Lastly, If anything that you do elicits pain, you should stop. It is important that you keep yourself safe.
Other Question About Postpartum Back Pain
How should I sleep with back pain?
You must try to sleep with a neutral spine. To do this, you should get comfortable sleeping flat on your back.
To put your spine in a neutral position, place a pillow underneath your knees. This will posteriorly rotate your pelvis.
Alternatively, you can sleep on your side with a pillow in between your knees.
Can epidurals cause back pain later?
Epidurals for the most part, do not cause long term back pain.
With that said an epidural is a procedure. As with all procedures, there are inherent risks with performing them.
In general, epidurals are very safe and have no lasting consequences.
If you have any specific concerns, be sure to speak with your provider and a physical therapist to be sure.
Can carrying a baby cause back pain?
Yes. It isn’t uncommon for women to hold their babies with bad postural alignment.
That’s because your baby will present an uneven load to your spine.
As a result, you will compensate by shifting your hips and your spine towards the side that you hold a baby.
As you could imagine this only gets worse as your baby gets heavier.
To prevent this from happening there are two things you can do:
- Always try to change the side that you carry your baby to prevent any imbalances between either side.
- Alternatively, you can use a baby carrier to distribute the weight either in front or behind you to prevent any side to side muscle imbalances.
Is breastfeeding causing my back pain?
It’s possible that breastfeeding could be causing back pain.
It all depends on the position you’re in whenever you are breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding in a slouched, or hunched posture, you are putting your spine in a disadvantageous position.
It is important that you pay attention to your posture at all times and do your best to keep your back flat.
How long does postpartum back pain last?
Postpartum back pain can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
If your back pain is caused by musculoskeletal misalignments, then the strategies in this post should start to help you after a few weeks.
If your back pain does not begin to improve after 6 to 8 weeks, you should get another evaluation by a provider.
Can gas cause back pain?
Yes, gas can definitely cause a lot of back pain.
Pregnant and postpartum women often suffer from constipation and gas buildup.
If you do not have a bowel movement every 1 to 2 days then it is likely that you are constipated.
While medications like Colace and Simethicone can provide short-term relief, it is important that you attack the root cause.
This usually means adding more water, fruits, and vegetables into your diet, daily.
Not only will you be doing wonders for your health, but it also relieves a lot of discomfort associated with gas buildup.
Why do I have back pain after a cesarean delivery?
Developing back pain after a C-section may or may not be related to the factors I mentioned in this article.
In general, no part of a C-section surgery involves the structures of your spine. Your back pain may be related to some other factors that just so happened to get worse after your c-section.
Be sure to see your provider who can give you a referral for a thorough evaluation.
Are there any foods that help back pain after delivery?
There isn’t a lot of research on this topic. A lot of back pain postpartum is musculoskeletal in origin.
As such, the number one “food” that can help with back pain is water.
It is important that you’re well-hydrated to maximize blood flow and circulation to your entire body.
Do your best to drink at least 3 to 4 cups of plain water every single day to minimize any effects of dehydration.
Final Thoughts On Postpartum Back Pain
Treating postpartum back pain involves a multifactorial approach.
It is important that you pay attention to your posture, your lifting technique, and your sleeping position.
On top of that, you want to make sure that you train your core and glute muscles often with the sequence I provided you.
That’s all I have for you today!
Questions for you:
How long did your back pain last?
What did you do to improve it?
Comment below and let me know!
Don’t Forget to Grab Yourself A Copy of the Postpartum Posture Correction Guide!
If you are ready to start a comprehensive at-home workout program to fix your mom posture today, get yourself a copy of the PPT’s Posture Correction Guide for just $7. It goes over 18 different exercises you can do to improve your posture and mobility; plus a 6 week workout template you can do in the comfort of your home!
Now, let’s go over a few other questions I often hear.
Other Articles to Improve Back Pain Postpartum
- 100 Amazing Exercises to Strengthen Your Core
- How to Develop Strong Abdominal Muscles Postpartum
- Risks of Exercising Too Soon Postpartum
- Activities to Avoid After Childbirth
Get Four Free Workouts To Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor & Heal Your Mommy Tummy!
Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
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