Is Your Toddler Causing Your Back Pain?

Maybe you've been suffering with back pain since you saw the 2 little blue lines appear on the pregnancy test. Maybe you made it through all of pregnancy and postpartum without back pain, but now you suddenly are having problems. Whether you have given birth or not, anyone who cares for kids, from teachers to mamas, may find their low back hurting on a regular basis.

I'm Melissa Noeth, DPT and the owner of Fit Mama Physical Therapy, which specializes in pregnancy and postpartum physical therapy. Through education, exercises, and therapeutic techniques, I assist women in maximizing their body's potential to stay healthy and strong throughout the entire pregnancy and postnatal period while minimizing negative effects. In this post, I share some tips to help you address your back pain, so you can enjoy daily activities with your toddler.

How to address toddler caused back pain

There are so many different reasons for back pain, but generally when you are lugging around a 30-pound human shaped medicine ball, it has a lot to do with your posture and body mechanics. This pain may go anywhere from a constant dull ache that worsens over the course of the day to an extreme sharp pain that comes and goes. While the pain inflicted by toddlers may not always be as easy to spot as them smacking you straight in the face with their Tonka truck, there are adjustments you can make in your daily routine to help address the pain and discomfort.  

When Holding your Toddler 

Stand in aligned posture and engage your core, hold he or she at your midline when possible. If you can do this correctly, you will be strengthening your abs while holding them and helping your back instead of causing more problems---check here for babywearing and carrying tips. Try not to strike the classic mom pose of baby on hip with all your weight shifted onto one leg; this can cause sacroiliac joint problems and if you already have this you will need to seek treatment in person from a physical therapist. Try not to carry them too much if you are already in pain. I will direct you back to Sandra for advice on the possible ensuing tantrums from this tip. ;)

Sandra here. This is a great point from Melissa. Often toddlers don’t need to (and shouldn't) be carried but just want to feel close. I recommend taking a break and sitting next to them for a snuggle, a long hug and/or a back rub. Then redirect your toddler to the next activity or task at hand. “Let’s have a hug and then we will walk together holding hands.”

When you get down to their level

Try not to bend forward at your hips with your legs straight. Squat down with your back straight and keep your heels on the floor, if you are up on your toes you will not be able to stay in that position too long. If you are there for quite a while, take a knee (like you lunged all the way to the floor and are now resting on your front knee); if you have knee pain, use a pillow. If you are going to be playing for a longer period, just sit down right away on the floor with them.  

When you pick your toddler up

Squat all the way down, hug them into you, and push through your legs to stand up. When putting them down, reverse this move---the closer you have them to your body the easier it will be on your back and you will be using your glutes instead of your back to do it. Save yourself some squats at the gym and squat with your toddler instead.

When transferring your toddler into the car seat

Use the above technique and move your feet to turn away from the car to set them on the ground instead of swinging them down and rotating through your back. Remember to squat when setting them down.

Lastly, if you invariably have back pain when you pick up or hold your toddler, try sitting in a chair and having them climb onto your lap when possible so you can still get in your time together.

Remember, back health is so important because it allows us the freedom to continue doing what we like and be active participants in our kids’ lives. While kids are important, you also need to care for yourself. So often we mamas get in the habit of putting ourselves second, but if we prioritize our health we can all enjoy the time we spend together as families more.  

Melissa Noeth is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of Fit Mama Physical Therapy, which specializes in pregnancy and postpartum physical therapy. Melissa helps women maximize their body's potential to stay healthy and strong throughout the entire pregnancy and postnatal period. You can join her newsletter for more helpful tips on fitness, wellness, and treatment solutions geared toward moms. Melissa currently lives part of the year in St Augustine, FL with her son, Mason, and husband, Jon. However, she schedules seminars throughout the US. She loves to travel, hike, run, snowboard and find new adventures to experience with their little one. To see if an online consult may be the right fit for you, submit a request here