Every woman’s postpartum journey is different, but we want it to be as pain free as possible for our mamas! Not to mention, most new moms need a reminder to also care for themselves during this time. In this blog, we share how and when chiropractic care can fit into your postpartum journey + five of the most common postpartum pain conditions + helpful product links.
How soon can you be seen Postpartum?
The day you have your sweet babe [ if you're in pain ] - but we prefer you rest for TWO WEEKS! For both vaginal births and C-sections we recommend waiting two weeks postpartum to give yourself some time to heal and enjoy your new bundle of joy! Similar to prenatal care, we use our specialized pregnancy pillow that has unique spaces for mom's healing belly and breasts! Our mamas LOVE being able to relax and lay without any painful pressure on their breasts or possible healing abdominal scars. In addition, our adjustments and care continue to be gentle, which may include our flexion distraction technique! Continue reading for FIVE of our most common musculoskeletal postpartum conditions. This is only a limited list of what we see, so if you have any questions regarding postpartum care, please reach out to our team!
1. Diastasis recti
Diastasis Recti occurs when your right and left abdominal muscles separate from each other. This condition stems from the stretching of the tissue, termed ‘linea alba’, that connects the right and left abdominal muscles [depicted below]. With pregnancy, the pressure within the abdomen increases which stretches the tissue and creates a gap. Separation is normal ~ your body is making space for baby! Ultimately, we want the abdominal muscle connection to return by 12 weeks postpartum. Our concern with sustained separation is a weak core. Weak core muscles are often a major contributing factor to other pain conditions like low back pain. Improper resistance training can also exacerbate this condition (pregnant or not). If you are concerned, avoid doing any exercises that cause “doming” like crunches or planks and seek care.
We discuss this further in our Online Course, including how to evaluate abdominal separation at home! If you are concerned about this condition or are seeking professional help, we recommend physical therapy.
2. Pelvic Floor Recovery
Your ‘pelvic floor’ refers to the group of muscles at the base of the pelvis that act as the ‘floor’ for all your abdominal organs. This includes all the sphincters that hold in urine and poop plus muscles that aid in sexual function, spine stabilization, + posture! During pregnancy, the weight of the baby stretches out these muscles. Trauma can result in tight muscles, and some women can experience tearing. Symptoms that are typically related to pelvic floor function: incontinence, low back pain, pubic pain, pelvic floor heaviness, pain with intercourse, and others. To hear more from an expert, check out Dr. Elissa Cohen, PT Pelvic Floor specialist in our Online Course. She shares more on what evaluation and treatment looks like!
3. Upper back + Neck Pain
Neck stiffness and upper back pain can show up postpartum mostly due to poor posture + biomechanics. Some causes may be new sleeping positions or looking down at your little one most of the day! One thing we worry about with neck pain is how it can progress. Some women may experience pain or numbness radiating into their arm or hand or frequent headaches secondary to their neck pain. Each of our chiropractic treatments is conjoined with a deep stretching session that is absolutely essential for issues involving tight neck + upper back muscles. Below are the trapezius and scalene muscle groups, both of which can be contributors to neurological conditions like thoracic outlook syndrome -- or musculoskeletal conditions such as torticollis. For more information related to neck pain and headaches read: Finding Headache Relief.
4. Mommy shoulder
After having their little one, we often hear mamas experiencing shoulder achy-ness and stiffness. Almost always it is do to overuse or overload of the joint. We may not “feel” like our baby is heavy, but holding even the smallest newborns still requires a constant contraction of your arms, which no one is used to! For treatment we typically focus on adjustments that mobilize the shoulder + muscle lengthening for the surrounding muscles. For more info, check out our Online course and our blog:
5. Tailbone pain
Tailbone pain is another common symptom we see postpartum. It’s caused by a variety of things: how baby was positioned during pregnancy, the actual delivery, daily activities, etc. Additionally, the hormone relaxin hangs out for awhile after pregnancy which can play a role in pain related to ligament laxity. You can expect it to take months for your pelvis to return to a ‘normal’, neutral position after a pregnancy. We recommend using an exercise ball whenever you can - you can even try it when you’re nursing. It allows you to tuck your pelvis forward, taking pressure off the coccyx [ tailbone ]. Lumbosacral support belts can add some stability especially if you are also experiencing low back pain. We have a myriad of stretches + more educational info in our Online Course!