Nothing says “welcome to parenthood” like a chronically aching lower back. Who knew that constantly carrying a tiny human being who gains a few pounds every week could have negative repercussions?
Adam Bornstein is a fitness expert and blogger. He feels your pain—if not literally, then as a parent, sympathetically. “We end up looking at the symptom rather than the cause of back pain. As any parent can attest to, often you’re holding your child in a way that isn’t perfect for your posture but makes them feel good. The issues come from what you’re doing the rest of the time.”
And, since you already know the perfect way to carry Junior and, presumably, the damn thing is still killing you, read on.
Warm Up Before You Pick Up
“A body at rest at night is similar to a cold rubber band,” says Bornstein. “If you ever freeze a rubber band it snaps. Our muscles work the same way.”
Even people that are in peak physical condition are prone to wrench something when a baby starts screaming at 3 a.m. That’s because you and your spinal fluid are still pretty much asleep. Bornstein recommends getting your blood flowing by doing 10 squats or walk up and down the stairs. Don’t worry, your baby will still be crying when you get there.
How To Stop Slouching
Unlike those dads in Africa who don’t put their baby down for the first year of their life, you hold your baby an aggregate of a few hours a day. Poor posture is responsible for most back issues: so it’s really the 90 percent of sitting in your office desk all day that makes the 10 percent of cradling time the straw the breaks the camel’s… you know.
Whether parents are sitting at a desk or holding your child, there’s a tendency to round the upper back, causing neck pain, lower back pain, and spasming. The solution isn’t always as simple as a standing desk.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I sit all day because I’m a writer,” he says. “I hate a standing desk because I get distracted.”
So, if you don’t buy into the fad of a cubicle that’s also a treadmill, try this:
- Shoulders back, chest out. “Think of your shoulder-blades like a handkerchief you want to put into your back pocket,” says Bornstein.
- Take a deep breath and push your shoulder blades down. That will stretch out your chest and your back.
- Sitting up straight isn’t a tense motion; you shouldn’t be stiff when you’re upright.
- Set a timer to do this every 60 seconds. “When we sit at work we forget these things. We’re constantly sitting, trying to cram eight hours work into three hours because we want to get home to see our kid.”
How To Strengthen The Pillar
“The best thing to be a superhuman parent is to move weight with real life movement. Prepare your body for the variable load.” Which is to say that a dumbbell doesn’t try to jump out of your arms without warning, but a two-year-old does. So factor a little dynamic movement (like tossing a medicine ball off the wall) into your workout routine.
Here are the exercises you should be doing to target hips, glutes, and hamstrings. Basically, all those areas that have atrophied from filing TPS reports all day:
- Clamshell Exercise
- Hip Raise
- 90/90 Stretch
- Plank Variation: “A lot of people do a regular plank, but static without dynamic movement isn’t real life. If I do something in a perfect condition I’m all right, but add a 40-lbs wiggling child, it’s completely different.”
- Deadlift: “The deadlift is the best human exercise. Handling a weight from the floor to body. What’s more primal than picking up weight and putting down?”
More Core As You (And Your Kids) Get Older
“You go from having to carry your child to wanting to play with them,” says Bornstein, who suggests that as you age the glue that holds your body together—your core—gets even more important. Or maybe you want to be known as “old dad/mom” at pickup.
Experts say the body benefits from shorter, more intense exercise routines.”If you can go 10-15 minutes straight, you can run around with your kid,” says Bornstein. Plan to do these four exercises two to three times a week—for the rest of your life.
Yoga Or No (Ga)
“Stretching is good for elasticity, but people go to yoga and pilates and put their bodies in positions they’re not ready for. Start with basic movements,” says Bornstein. If you try a few of these and feel like a pretzel that can experience excruciating pain, do less.
When You Do Get Hurt
It’s bound to happen, even if you’ve done all of the above. Here’s how to recover with the quickness:
- Use a combination of heat and ice.
- If you have a muscular strain, you don’t want to take ibuprofen.
- Inactivity is going to slow the healing process. Do some simple movements. Go for a walk and get blood flow to the area. Back pain doesn’t heal on its own.
- Don’t do your normal workout
- Do ask for a day off from your family. Just kidding, don’t ask that if you want your children to love you or your partner to ever sleep with you again.
This article was originally published on Fatherly. If you enjoyed this article, check out these other stories:
Fatherly is a parenting resource for men who understand that embracing what they’ve become doesn’t mean giving up who they are. Men who want to be great fathers without turning into cliches. Men who spent their formative years laughing at blogs about dads in short shorts, but who will never, ever wear short shorts themselves. We’re committed to making the parenting process easier, whether it’s offering a spot-on recommendation or a shameless laugh to help you focus on spending more quality time with your kid and less time freaking out.