Mommas this is why your joints hurt
So I’ve been experiencing some right knee pain for a few months and I recently started going to physical therapy to treat this pain. I have what’s called patellar femoral pain and it’s usually caused by the knee cap (patellar) not tracking right over the femur which is the bone that goes from your hip to your knee. Now there are several factors that have caused me to have a problem (loose joints, skeletal alignment etc.) but the one that got me the most interested is that my right hip is much weaker than my left. Now this was surprising to me because all of the exercises that I do are symmetrical. But then it dawned on me: I usually carry my daughter on my left side. This means that I’ve been effectively lifting an ever increasing weight on my left side every day for months while doing very little on the right.
So my tired, achy, frazzled moms out there let’s talk about how we lift our babies. I know, I know, it’s just one more thing that you have to think about. Can it really be that important? Well as we all know motherhood takes its toll on us. You’re usually not sleeping well, you’re very busy and stressed, your diet either consists of nothing at all or junk because you’re starving and it’s easy. All of these factors create hormones (such as cortisol) that in turn create inflammation. Inflammation and lack of sleep are going to make injury and/or chronic joint and muscle issues more prevalent.
Also, let’s face it Ladies, we ain’t getting any younger and all those factors listed above also tend to speed that aging process up. So, all this means that you need to integrate a little bit of self-care into your day. It won’t take up time, I know how limited that is for mothers, but it will take a bit of brain power and self-awareness. Here are some tips to help you ease the pain and strain on your body.
Problem: Hip sitting
Many mommas (like me) sit their littles on their hip. Often moms have a preferred hip. This causes weakness on the opposite side.
Solution: distribute weight
So you don’t have to stop hip sitting. That would be silly to ask you to do. I know, you need that other hand! However, if you do sit your child on your hip try to switch sides every time. This will take some awareness because often it’s a force of habit and we need to be mindful in order to break the habit. Another tip is when carrying your little one any distance (even if it’s just from the car into Target) put your babe in a carrier. This leads me to problem number 2.
Problem: poorly supported/improperly adjusted carriers
Carriers are great. They’re a hands free, hassle free way to transport your bundle of joy. The problem is when they do not provide the proper support for you or they are not adjusted properly.
Solution: support and adjustment
Make sure you read the directions to your carrier carefully and know the height and weight limits for your carrier. Also for older babies and toddlers try to invest in a carrier such as a frame child carrier or other child carrier that can be worn at the back and has a belt. Wearing a carrier on your front with a baby that’s fifteen pounds or more puts a lot of strain on your back and shoulders. The belt will help to take strain off of your shoulders. Also, once you have a good carrier make sure that the baby’s weight is distributed evenly. Try to have someone else help you adjust your carrier for the first time so they can take a step back and see if baby is centered or if one strap looks tighter/higher than another. If you don’t have someone there to help you try using a mirror.
Problem: picking baby up
Picking your baby or toddler up from the floor is part of motherhood. However, we often don’t pay attention to our posture when doing so. This can cause muscle strains and unnecessary stress on the joints.
Solution: proper posture
Try to put your body square to your child (i.e. don’t stand to the left or right of your baby and then try to pick them up from the side.) Use a proper squat position when bending down. Sit your hips back and make sure your knees do not go past your toes. Also, make sure that your knees stay in line with your toes and don’t flare out or cave in. When lifting you child up use your powerful leg and glute (that butts ladies) to lift not you back muscles. Try to keep a tight core and a flat back to protect your spine.
Breast feeding moms spend a lot of time nursing, especially in those first few months. Often moms are taught to breast feed in a bottle feeding position. Sitting upright in a chair with your baby cradled in your arms facing the ceiling. This is problematic for many reasons (a whole other articles worth in fact) but for this articles purpose let’s talk about posture. Often mothers end up slouched over their baby bringing their breast down to the baby. This puts strain on the back and neck. Most nursing resources will tell you to bring baby to breast but that means that moms either have to use a nursing pillow underneath their arms or get really strong really quick. The end result is often resorting to bringing breast to baby.
Solution: reclined nursing
There are many benefits to nursing Baby with Momma in a reclined or even supine (laying down face up) position. First and foremost, it lets gravity aid mom and baby with the weight and strain of baby’s body. This also allows the baby to help with latching on.
Problem: muscle fatigue
Let’s face it when we were pregnant most of us used it as an excuse to eat whatever we want and not do very much. Then your screaming, pooping, won’t sleep ever, bundle of joy comes into the world and you can’t even comprehend how you’re going to fit in exercise. Here’s the catch, if you don’t make some time for some self-care and strengthening it’s going to make it harder to care for the little one. Your joints will hurt more, you’ll be more tired (counterintuitive but true) and you won’t get the endorphin boost of being active.
Did you see that one coming? Ok, so this one takes some time but Girlfriend I promise it’ll be worth it. Exercise helps boost your mood, strengthen any weaknesses that you’ve developed, plus you get to give the baby to Hubby, or partner, or Grandma, or random stranger (just kidding, just kidding, don’t do that). It’s the perfect excuse. Who can deny a mom with dried green bean mush in her hair and spit up on her shirt an hour to exercise and get all that “hubby has to be told to change the baby’s poopy diaper for the twentieth time,” frustration out.
So, there you have it. Some of the reasons for your motherhood induced aches and pains. Mothering is no small feat. At this moment I haven’t showered in several days and my daughter is hell bent on whining her way into the Guinness Book of World records. Unfortunately, we live in a society that makes you feel like instead of taking care of yourself you should devote that time to hand grinding $20.00 organic carrots with a marble mortar and pestle, while at the same time teaching baby three foreign languages. It’s not realistic and frankly, it’s not a good idea to neglect yourself. If you take some time to exercise, socialize, drink and eat well you will be less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. That doesn’t mean that you won’t feel any aches or pains, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel alone after spending all day with an adorable, nonverbal tyrant, and each day will always have its ups and downs. Just realize that you are a wonderful, normal, perfectly imperfect person (remember you are not just a mom). We are all a work in progress. Showing up is half the battle and you show up every day. I see you Momma and I commend you for all of your hard work.