Osteopathy and Postnatal Exercise
This is the first blog in our women’s physical health series, exploring different approaches and looking at how we can keep physically well. And today it’s Osteopathy and our expert osteopath, Sally Wade, teaching us about postnatal exercise.
So what is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is an approach which detects, diagnoses, treats and prevents physical health issues. It’s broadly based on the principles that the wellbeing of a person depends on the smooth functioning of the body – in particular the bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue. It is an approach which treats the whole body, and unlike a chiropractor who focuses primarily on the spine and joints, osteopaths take a whole body view, improving flexibility, posture and resulting in improved health and a reduction in pain. They don’t just look at the painful area, but look at the bigger picture.
Osteopaths treat a number of physical areas and ailments, including:
- Back pain
- Neck ache
- Shoulder pain
- Knee pain
- Arthritic pain
- Sports injuries
- Pregnancy related pain
- Postnatal pain
Osteopaths focus on treating the body by moving, stretching and massaging a person's muscles and joints. They often also use cranial osteopathy to diagnose areas of strain or dysfunction inside the structures of the head.
When we take about postnatal exercise here, we are talking about women supporting their bodies, and reaping the health benefits after birth, as opposed to getting ‘back into shape.’ It’s important you listen to your own body, as it often knows best, seeking advice from your GP regarding your readiness for postnatal exercise, and stopping when you experience discomfort.
As Sally says, ‘The key to exercising healthily is to listen to your body. If your lochia is becoming redder or heavier, this is a sign you may be over doing things’.
However postnatal exercise can have important benefits such as improving flexibility and strength, protecting you from aches and pains, boosting energy levels and mood through increasing levels of endorphins and noradrenaline (one of our ‘happiness’ neurotransmitters) and giving you some much needed me time.
But there are some key messages for ‘doing’ postnatal exercise in a healthy manner. Sally says it’s best to avoid ‘high intensity exercise’ and ‘high impact exercise’; so the pelvic floor has time to recover for at least the first few months, before it is put under strong pressure.
Sally’s Do’s and Don't’s of Postnatal Exercise
1. WAIT – Wait to get signed off by your GP as fit for exercise at your postnatal check before restarting your exercise routine. Although this can feel frustrating, your body will thank you for it in time.
2. GIVE IT TIME – Try and remember it takes 12 months (and not 12 weeks!) for the body to recover from childbirth, and as all bodies are different, some women might not be ready for exercise for months. Try to let yourself off the hook, and let your body decide when it’s ready and what it’s ready for.
3. SUPPORT – Wear a good sports bra – it can make all the difference, supporting you, and reducing the risk of stretch marks and discomfort. If you are breastfeeding, you might notice that milk flow is triggered by certain arm movements, or thoughts about feeding, so pop some breast pads in to ensure you remain comfortable.
4. SLOW – Really try to start slow, focusing on precision, as opposed to pushing yourself harder. Sally says, ‘Focus on good technique and alignment. Go for quality rather than quantity. Slower is harder.’
1. HEAL – Don’t think that as you are no longer pregnant, you can jump straight back into exercise. Your body has been through important changes, and it needs time to heal and recover.
2. OVERDO IT – Did you know that you are more vulnerable to injury when tired? If you are feeling exhausted or have been up at night, Sally suggests you ‘put your exercise session on hold for that day and have a nap or choose a lighter activity instead.’
3. HYDRATE – Remember you need to drink and it’s not wise to restrict liquid intake, because of fear of leakage. Hydration is vital when doing exercise, and if you do notice wetness, this is simply your body’s way of letting you know that you may need to do more pelvic floor exercises.
4. AVOID – It’s important you focus on appropriate exercises and avoid sit-ups and crunches. These are more likely to make your tummy stick out, causing lower back pain and increased pressure on your weakened pelvic floor.
See below for a video of Sally’s top postnatal exercises to get you ready for more intense exercise. It is important to make sure you are comfortable with these postnatal exercises before you move on to anything more difficult. Often you have to regress exercises in order to progress further with them.
Sally Wade and Dr Jo Gee
Sally, BSc (Hons) Ost., is an Osteopath registered with the General Osteopathic Council and specialises in women's health. Sally offers ostetopathy through Mummas Wellbeing. Please see https://www.mummaswellbeing.com/treatments/osteopathy for more information and to book.
We also have a pre and postnatal physiotherapist led exercise class running in Guildford: https://www.mummaswellbeing.com/our-events/pilates
Mummas Wellbeing - is a specialist mums wellbeing service, in Guildford and Godalming, Surrey, UK. We offer Arvigo, hypnobirthing, counselling, psychotherapy, nutritional therapy, massage, mindfulness, osteopathy, physiotherapy, pilates, postnatal doula and reflexology for women through fertility, pregnancy, the postnatal period and parenting.
Tel: 07933 343180