Postpartum Joint Recovery
Pregnancy can lead to a whole slew of very painful joint issues some of which include carpel tunnel syndrome, symphysis pubic dysfunction and sciatica. The main cause is the hormone relaxin which makes the whole body more flexible to allow for the pelvis to separate during delivery. Those who are hypermobile (e.g. Ehlors-Danlos) or had injuries prior to pregnancy are at higher risk. Some issues can take up to a year to heal and others won't heal without external help. We have put together some steps to take to accelerate the healing process and to prevent further injury.
Our first recommendation for every women is to see either an osteopath (specialized in alignment of joints, organs, bones and fascia) or a pregnancy-specialized physiotherapist. This should be done within the first month postpartum, before all the joints have solidified again, and before returning to exercise. This is especially important if a vaginal delivery took place and if you experienced pain during the pregnancy. If you are seeing an osteopath that also treats infants, we recommend booking a double appointment. They are great at gently massaging the scull of your infant back to a round shape. Some reasons that the head may be out of shape are that you had a large baby through a narrow birth canal or the use of forceps were required. Osteopaths are also great for treating flathead syndrome.
Once the joints are re-aligned they must be kept in place until everything has re-solidified. Any heavy lifting or movements that require flexibility can undo the work of the osteopath or physiotherapist. Consequently, carrying your baby in a carrier as you go about your daily activities may actually prevent you from healing. Since babies become dependent on habits, if you're feeling the carrier is heavy now, imagine what it will be like as your baby doubles and triples in weight. For this reason, we advise against carriers for people with pelvic, hip and back injuries.
Because of all the carrying that must be done with a new baby, the joints take on extra pressure making it easy for the joints to pop out of place again and difficult to heal. For this reason, we recommend investing in some braces to keep the joints aligned until everything has re-solidified. We do recommend removing the brace a couple times a day and doing some strengthening exercises to make sure no muscle mass is lost.
For those with back injuries like herniated discs, we recommend wearing a lumbar back brace that those who do heavy lifting wear during the day (remove the suspenders). As the injury subsides, even if you don't wear the brace every day, we still recommend wearing it when doing any heavy lifting around the house to prevent the injury from coming back.
Pelvic & Hips
For those with pelvic or hip injuries like symphysis pubic dysfunction or sacroiliac joint dysfuntion, you can continue using any belts you had success with during pregnancy (e.g. Symphysis Maternity Belt, Pregnancy & Maternity Belt With Compression Groin Band).
For those with wrist injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, we recommend a hard wrist brace during day and a softer one that keeps your wrist straight while sleeping at night. Our favorites are the Exos Boa for daytime (can get with a prescription) and the 3M Tensor Night Comfortable Wrist Support.
Use Your Stroller
The easiest way to cause your joints to separate is by lugging around the bucket car seat. Taking an extra two minutes to take the stroller frame out of the trunk can actually save you a lot of distress and money on joint realignment appointments. To minimize the amount of carrying, we recommend placing the stroller next to the car door and moving the bucket car seat from the car directly to the stroller frame. Make sure to wear braces any time you lug the bucket car seat even if it is just a meter.
Bathing Your Child
Bending over a tub to bathe your child can be quite strenuous on your knees and back. For this reason, when the child is younger, we recommend getting in the tub with them. You can use Epsom salts which will help both with your healing and to heal the baby's diaper rashes or eczema. As the child gets older, we recommend buying a stool to put directly in the tub. This way you can simply sit on the stool in the tub, with your feet in the water, while you bathe your child while avoiding any pressure on your joints.
Choose Activities Wisely
It may sound like fun to do a yoga or dance class postpartum but activities that require flexibility or baby carrying are a no-no until absolutely certain the joints have solidified. We recommend Pilates (slow controlled exercises) or the My Gym children's gym instead.
The usual recommendation is to keep taking DHA (omega-3), while breastfeeding, for the baby's brain development; but there is another reason you may want to continue taking it. Studies have shown that DHA and EPA to be quite effective at minimizing joint and arthritis pain. For this reason, we recommend switching to a combined DHA/EPA supplement postpartum.