Thursday 19 October 2017

Protecting Your Joints After Childbirth

Mums can be at particular risk of suffering from joint pain, thanks to the many pressures their bodies are put under.

Firstly, of course, pregnancy brings with it the risk of aches and pains, as we carry around a growing human being for nine months. There are also often changes to hormone levels and nutrition, which can also play havoc on our body.

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Whilst much of this may subside after birth, mums can then be exposed to all manner of new dangers - from carrying babies, to nursing, to playing with the kids. All of these activities are “novel” and involve pressures and activities which are unfamiliar to the body.

Little wonder then that some studies suggest over 70% of women experience joint pain during, or soon after, pregnancy.

But what can be done to help protect your joints as a young mum?

Take Care of Yourself

Being a mum can be a full-time job, and sometimes it is difficult to fit your needs around those of your child. All the same, it is important to remember the stresses and strains that your body is being put under, and that getting ill isn’t likely to help anyone.

Despite the temptation, therefore, it is important to take good care of yourself during pregnancy and when child rearing. Do all the things we know that we should - from eating properly to getting at least eight hours sleep a night - and you’ll find yourself in the best place both physically and mentally for parenthood.

Use a Back Support

An interesting study examined pelvic girdle and lower back pain in new mothers. The scientists split the participants into several groups, and provided each with potential solutions. Some, for example, were invited to exercise classes designed to help increase flexibility, while others were provided with alternative exercises to do at home.

At the end of the study, the experts were rather surprised to find that the most effective remedy for lower back pain was a simple non-elastic back brace. While it might feel odd to wear a back support, the evidence seems clear that they really can help to eliminate lower back pain in many women.

Healthy living

A study of 891 pregnant women found that 72% of respondents suffered from joint pain at one time or another. Asked to fill in a survey containing dozens of health-related questions, the experts then looked for links between lifestyle and joint problems.

Whilst there were many correlations, one of the most important was the link between body weight and lower back pain. It seems that the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to suffer.

There often seems to be a lot pf pressure on women to 'get back in shape' once they have had a baby. It shouldn't be this way and women should take their own time getting back into a healthy pattern. There's no doubt that losing any excess “baby weight” after childbirth will help ease pressure on your joints. Just be sure to consult your doctor before commencing any new weight loss program, to ensure that you are doing so safely.  

Get Enough Calcium

Pregnancy can be tough on your body, with your growing baby deriving all its nutritional requirements from you. Possibly the most important aspect of this when it comes to your joints is the loss of bone density most women experience.

It has been suggested that most mothers lose between three and seven percent of their bone density during pregnancy, as calcium is instead used by their growing foetus to build a skeleton. Fortunately, in most cases this lost calcium is quickly regained after childbirth.

Interestingly, studies suggest that supplementing with calcium during pregnancy has no impact on the loss of bone density, so the key is to make sure you’re eating calcium-rich foods postpartum. Now is the time to enjoy dairy products like milk, leafy greens like watercress and to even consider a calcium supplement. Doing so will ensure your body has all the supply of calcium it needs to repair lost bone density.  

Complementary Therapy

Whilst we are all different, a range of non-invasive complementary therapies have been used by mums to fight joint pain. From applying ice packs, to getting a massage, to experimenting with acupuncture, speak to your friends and see what they recommend. There is some evidence that all of these treatments may help to ease joint and muscle pain in a natural manner.

Work Less

Many mums carry on their day job for as long as possible, often working right up until their expected due date. At the same time, scientists have found that “physically strenuous work” is associated with increased back pain during pregnancy.

Whilst you are the best expert when it comes to your health during pregnancy, appreciate that heavy activity brings with it an increased risk of discomfort. As a result, it can be beneficial to reduce your workload in the third trimester and to keep physically strenuous activity low in the early days of parenting.

Enjoy Gentle Exercise

Most of us know that we should be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week. What you might not realize is that the benefits aren’t just on your cardiovascular health. As it turns out, gentle low-intensity exercise can help to reduce joint pain and increase flexibility. There is also evidence that exercise may help us psychologically too - a natural way to fight the potential risk of postpartum depression.

Pleasantly, experts suggest that resuming exercise shortly after childbirth “has no adverse effects”. This is not to suggest that you should start training for a marathon just yet, but gentle exercise like yoga or walking may be beneficial for your health - and your joints.

Consider Supplementation

There is growing evidence that some supplements can help to support healthy joints and reduce pain. In some studies, experts found that glucosamine can be highly effective for relieving joint pain, whilst omega 3 oils can offer pain-relieving benefits. That said, whilst there is a fair amount of science to back up the more popular supplements, pregnant and nursing mothers should always seek professional advice before supplementing their diet in any way.

Consult Your Doctor

Pregnancy and child rearing are probably the most physically-demanding things that you’ll ever do. It therefore pays to get the necessary support and advice to keep you in the best of health.

Your first port of call before making any changes to your lifestyle should always therefore be to your healthcare professional. Not only will they be able to advise you on the very latest knowledge pertaining to diet and nutrition, but they will be able to tailor this advice to your unique situation.

Whilst articles like this may provide some direction, backed up by detailed scientific studies, you would be well-advised to seek professional medical advice as your first action if you find yourself suffering from any pain or discomfort, whether that is in your joints or not.

Thanks to the team at Simply Supplements for this article. If you’d like to learn more about supplements for joint health please click here.

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