There have been a few constants since I had children.
One, I don’t get enough sleep. It used to be because the kids woke me at night for feedings and changings; now it is because nighttime is the only time I get to read, play on the Internet, and watch TV.
Two, I can’t plan like I used to. I used to want to know exactly what I was going to do all the time. Not happening now. If I plan something these days, someone inevitably ends up sick or in need of doing something else.
And three, an aching back.
Since having children, lugging them around, carrying their stuff, bending to tie shoes and squeeze my cutie girls’ cheeks, my back has ached. I went from feeling like a twenty year old to stooping like a forty year old, which, sadly, I am but don’t want to act like!
I’m not talking about a serious back issue here. If your back hurts for longer than a few weeks, if you have difficulty bending down without feeling like you will wind up on the ground, if you are in extreme pain – get to the doctor. These aren’t issues to mess around with.
Instead, I’m talking about how, after a day of caring for kids, your lower back might hurt. I think this comes with the ‘parental territory’, but you can do a few things to make it better.
First, to ease the ache, remember to bend from the knees. If you are going to pick up your kids, don’t bend over at the waist.
Second, avoid exercises in your fitness routine that may aggravate that ache until it is gone. These might include cycling, due to the hunched over position, and running, due to the jarring your back takes during a run. (I find my back hurts worse after longer/harder runs.) Walking might be better for a few weeks, and swimming is always a great no-impact option. If you do run/jog/walk, try to steer clear of hard concrete and instead head for softer trails. Watch those weighted exercises that include lifting, too, as they can really aggravate an already tender back.
When it’s feeling a bit better, or, better yet, before it even starts to hurt, focus on strengthening your back so you can protect it from injury. Do this by participating in a pilates class or doing exercises to strengthen the core, which will, in turn, strengthen the back.
If you still find yourself in need of a back massage at the end of the day, try these poses for some relief:
- Cat/Dog. I love this set of poses! Rise up on your knees and hands in a tabletop position, back flat. Slowly arch your back (think cat), hold, and then release and push through tabletop so your belly is extended toward the floor and your back creates a valley. Do this slowly and don’t go extreme – the idea is to give a gentle stretch. Continue moving from cat to dog slowly and carefully, holding when you feel that tug.
- Spinal twist, seated. One of my favorites, this is great for stretching out the lower back, but do it carefully so you don’t make the problem worse. This article from Yoga Journal shows the correct way to do this pose.
- Spinal twist, on the floor. This is my all-time favorite, and I do it multiple times a day. Lay on the floor with feet straight and arms extended, so you resemble a cross or lowercase t. Lift your legs slowly (if your back is okay with this); tuck knees into your chest; and then slowly drop your knees over to one side. At the same time, slowly move your head so you are looking over the opposite shoulder.
What do you do to alleviate back tenderness at the end of a long day? Certain stretches? Preventative measures?