By Effie Koustas, MPT
“Stand up straight!” You can still hear your mother telling you this over and over again. Well, the same applies—even more so—during pregnancy. Since there are so many changes that a woman’s body undergoes, we may not be aware of how much our posture is affected. While these changes are a normal response to a growing fetus, they can take a toll on both our lower and upper body. This can include rounded (“slouched”) shoulders, which can lead to pain with everyday use of your arms.
Because these changes accompany pregnancy, many moms think that the pain is inevitable until the baby is born. Not only is that not the case, often the source of pain is accentuated postural changes that are not addressed. You can effectively manage the changes with a comprehensive home stretching and stabilization program and/or attending yoga. If your pregnancy is low risk and your obstetrician has cleared you to exercise, then you may continue, or start, an appropriate exercise routine. If the onset of pain occurred after you became pregnant, it’s important to let your doctor know in order to decide what the appropriate treatment is.
Alternatively, you may have had a healthy pain-free pregnancy but start to experience neck or low back pain when caring for your newborn. You will be holding, carrying, and lifting your baby multiple times during the day and night. This, over time, can cause repetitive shoulder overuse syndromes because all of these positions put your body into that rounded position. Unless, you are aware of your posture when caring for your baby, and can self correct, you will develop restrictions in your body that will cause pain.
If either of these situations applies to you, then you may benefit from a physical therapy evaluation to correct your posture, relieve your pain, and prevent future injury.