Today I am thrilled to share a guest post by licensed massage therapist – Jessica Mascher. In addition to being a massage therapist Jessica is a Birth and Postpartum Doula. She lives in Seattle and serves those located in the Seattle and surrounding areas. Her passion includes working with families and individuals who want to be active participants in their health and healthcare, offering them tools to help along the way. She has provided birth support in hospital, birth center, and home environments. She provides both emotional and physical support to the entire family throughout the perinatal period and beyond. You can learn more at www.maschermassage.com.
During pregnancy a person’s body goes through more structural changes in such a short time frame than any other time of life. Since majority of the new weight is being carried at the front of the body, it is common for the muscles in the back to become overstretched and weakened. This constant strain may even lead to a structural anomaly known as “Forward Head Posture”. This can lead to general tension, pain, numbness or tingling in hands and fingers, or popping joints and vertebrae.
Our bodies have this magical way of constantly adjusting to maintain balance, in the constant imbalance of our day to day activities and stressors, but pregnancy is one of those times when our bodies need our support! Here are 5 activities and support tools that help prevent or alleviate the presence of upper back and neck discomfort by keeping your muscles limber and structure in proper alignment.
1. Daily chest stretches- When we are experiencing back pain it is natural to assume we should stretch the back. This is often times not true though, as it is comparable to tightening an already knotted shoelace when you’re trying to get it untied. We actually want to stretch the antagonist to the pained area, which is the chest in this case. Two great chest stretches you can do every day are clasping your hands behind your back and gently pushing your chest out, additionally looking up at the ceiling. If that feels too intense you can go up to a wall or doorway and stretch each side of your chest on at a time by holding onto to the door way with your hand and leaning your upper body into it.
*You may notice your hands and fingers get tingly when stretching. This is normal, but you still want to stop the stretch immediately and consider massage to release the overtightened muscles.
2. Yoga/Exercise/Birth Ball- Many names for one ball! The benefit of sitting on a birth ball instead of a regular chair or couch is because it forces you to use your core and engage muscles. When you sit on a chair or couch your back often “gives” and you resume a slouched position. You will naturally sit up straighter on a birth ball.
3. Prenatal Yoga- Prenatal Yoga instructors are well educated in the structural and hormonal changes involved in pregnancy. They will offer a class that is safe and conscious of any limitations your body currently has or you get as you get further along in pregnancy.
4. Massage- Of course I am bias, but massage is a wonderful service to utilize during pregnancy and postpartum. There are some tissue restrictions that are going to be hard, or nearly impossible to relieve with stretching alone. Having a massage therapist who is well educated in pregnancy massage can do wonders for any aches or pains that may arise. As stated above, massage can also relieve muscle based nerve impingement that you may notice- such as tingling hands at night or when stretching. Massage Therapists can also offer referrals to additional body workers, if needed. I generally suggest every pregnancy person get massage at least once per month.
5. Baby Wearing- Moving on to postpartum…. The structural changes to do not go away once your baby arrives. Maintaining all of the activities listed above is important. Baby wearing is well worth considering during the postpartum period as well. Carriers allow you to have your baby’s weight evenly dispersed amongst your body so that you are not left holding baby in one arm at a time, causing uneven muscle strengthening or overuse. There are many carriers to choose from, please go to a Baby Wearers International meeting or consult with a doula, friend, or store worker to find which option may be best for you and ensure you’re wearing it correctly.
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