Could my mummy tummy be the cause of my back pain?

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Could my mummy tummy be the cause of my back pain?

Sunday, May 31, 2020

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MUMMY tummy, which is scientifically known as diastasis recti , is a condition where the connective tissue between the rectus abdomen muscles ('six pack' muscles) weakens, causing the muscles to separate.

It commonly occurs after pregnancy, with statistics of its occurrence being as a high as 66 per cent.

For many women who have diastasis recti, their greatest concern is their appearance. However, there are numerous mothers with back pain, abdominal pain, pelvic bone pain, incontinence, and/or other dysfunction of the pelvic floor. Some women may have a hard time completing various activities without pain. Some women may notice these symptoms right after giving birth, while others may not experience symptoms until years after their diastasis recti has been left untreated.

Here are a few ways mummy tummy can cause back pain:

Reduced functional core strength

The primary function of the core is to keep the body upright and protect the internal organs of the abdomen. If the primary core muscles are damaged and too weak to complete their function, other muscles will have to compensate. The back muscles usually compensate, which results in excess pressure being placed on the spine. Over time, this can lead to degenerative conditions of the spine that are commonly associated with chronic back pain.

Poor posture

After pregnancy, many women will find that their posture has changed — they now assume more of a forward neck posture, their shoulders become more rounded, and the hips sway forward. A number of factors contribute to this new posture, namely breastfeeding/feeding positions and the fact that while pregnant the weight of the baby in your tummy might have caused you to sway your hip and lower back forward to ease the tension off your back, coupled with a weakened core, makes it harder to keep your body upright.

The change in your posture results in weak, tightened and, in some cases, shortened muscles which can further lead to back pain.

Stress

Being a mother is already a stressful job, worrying about your mummy tummy will make it even more stressful. Unfortunately, stressing will not reduce the size of your tummy, instead it might cause you more pain.

When we get stressed out, the body naturally releases certain hormones. Adrenalin is associated with the 'fight or flight' phenomenon, it results in elevated blood pressure, increased blood supply and causes the muscle around our spine to tense and spasm in case we need to flee the source of stress.

Since mothers in most instances cannot flee their stressors, the result is back pain associated with tension and spasms at the spine. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, it interferes with a variety of function and is the underlying cause of many non-communicable diseases. Prolonged stress response can result in cortisol dysfunction, causing widespread inflammation and pain.

So, basically, stressing about your mummy tummy can be a literal pain in the back.

No need to worry

Don't stress it! If you believe you do have back pain that could be related to diastasis recti you can contact a doctor for a physical therapy referral. A physical therapist with experience in managing diastasis recti will help you reconnect from within, strengthen your core and improve your posture.

Kimberly Hoffman is a registered physical therapist at BodyForte Limited. She is also a member of the executive body for the Jamaica Physiotherapy Association.


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