My baby is a pain in the neck!
5 weeks ago, my wife and welcomed our first child into the world. We love him to bits and quite simply he is the best, BUT, my neck has never been sorer. It got me thinking about how many new parents (both mums and dads) must be struggling with aches and pains that they have never had before and that they probably just put up with and write off as part of being new parents (along with sleepless nights). The firsts weeks with baby are hard enough, don’t be in pain as well. In my case, my pain was so bad that I was not able to look down at my son while he was feeding on his bottle and this got me really worried (until I realised I was a physio and could fix it).
As a clinic, we often seen new mums and dads with acute episodes of neck pain or back pain so I should have seen this coming. I should have made sure when I was nursing him, my shoulders were down, and that I used the perfect chair every time I cuddled him or fed him so that my upper back and neck were supported. And of course, I should have done my stretches and postural correction exercises every night before bed... Well guess what, I didn’t, and I fell into the trap that many new parents fall into and that is survival mode. The mode where we are so obsessed with our new little human that we completely forget about our own wellbeing. When it is 2am in the morning and the little fella is crying for a bottle, my instinct as a parent is far greater than my instinct and training as a physio.
As a physio, I am lucky that I was able to quickly identify what was going on and I was able to self-treat (yes including using Panadol and Neurofen) and with the development of good habits things are much improved. So, to help out all of those mums and dads who are struggling with neck pain (or back pain for the matter) here are my top 4 things to do to look after your necks (I have made all of these mistakes, so you don’t have to).
1. Don’t feed standing up.
Newborns love to be cuddled and they love pacing and gentle movement which can make it seem really tempting to feed them while pacing up and down the hallway at 2am, it is a killer position for your neck. You will be holding your baby (somewhere between 3 & 4kg) in your arms to do but without support your poor old upper traps will soon become fatigued. Sure you might be fine for the first 5 mins but don’t forget that it can take 30-45mins for them to get through the bottle and that you have to do this up to 8 times per day. Also keep in mind that they put on weight pretty quickly, so as you are getting more fatigued each day, they are getting heavier. Pretty soon, even a strong upper trap will become fatigued, cranky and sore and once this happens, neck pain and headaches are almost guaranteed. Feed sitting down, preferably in a chair with arm rests and use pillows so that your arm is supported meaning those upper traps can relax
2. Try not to look straight down
Instinct is to hold baby nice and close to your chest however the problem here is that you need to look straight down to be able to see their mouth and watch them feed. Try having their head a little further away from your chest so that you don’t have to look as acutely down. This will help to look after the muscles and joints at the back of your neck.
3. Maintain your gym sessions where you can
You might not get there as much but if your neck and shoulders are feeling tight and sore then a workout can be a good way to help reduced your tension. At this stage of your life, any workout is a good workout so do what you can, when you can.
4. Heat packs, heat creams and stretches and self-care
Use any and all. Whatever works. Your physio can provide you with specific stretches and exercises to help with the tension in your neck. If you do not own a trigger ball, buy one. It will be the best $12 you spend. Again, we can show you how to use your trigger ball well (and we have plenty of them in stock).
So if you have just welcomed a new little human into your household and have ALL of the pains and aches in your body, hit us up. We know how to help, and we have firsthand experience so we won’t lecture you on all of the things you have done wrong because we know this is unhelpful at this time. We will just offer you helpful solutions and honest advice and provide some relief through physio and massage as well.
Take care and remember, I am only an email or phone call away.
Chris from Out of the Box Physio