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Managing Back Pain after a C-Section: Tips and Relief

Back pain after a C-section is common for mothers and can be caused by lots of different variables that stem from your labour, types of pain relief, and overall health. The good news is that there are lots of self-care solutions you can try which will prevent or relieve back pain after a c-section. In this guide we explore how to manage postpartum back pain with easy to implement tips for new mums

Causes of Back Pain After a C-section: What You Need to Know

Back pain after a C-section can have multiple causes but it’s important to recognise each one so you can actively work towards relieving back pain or preventing it from getting worse. After giving birth, your body still has a large amount of relaxin, which is a hormone that softens and loosens your joints and ligaments. Your newborn baby, although very tiny, can put strain on your body when you’re carrying and lifting them which can then lead to back pain. When you’re feeding your baby, ensure your back is kept straight and you feel supported and comfortable. The correct posture whilst feeding your baby can make a huge difference to reduce back pain after a C-section.

Naturally, by eating a healthy balanced diet to maintain a healthy body weight for your stature can help to reduce your chances of back pain. You also need to remember that a caesarean is major surgery and just the procedure itself can cause you back pain for a short while. As the effects of the anaesthesia wear off, you will feel pain in your lower back where the epidural was administered. An epidural is a type of pain relief which involves an injection into your spine and the area around this is very sensitive, which then leads to back pain as the effects wear off post-surgery.

Learn more: What Is Causing My Pain? Understand Relaxin Levels During And After Pregnancy

How to reduce back pain after c-section naturally

1. Practice good posture when breastfeeding, standing, siting, and walking

When your body is slumped or hunched over it puts strain onto other parts of the body which can then ultimately lead to back pain. When your posture is corrected and the weight you’re holding is supported, you stand a better chance of reducing back pain. As your baby grows and they get heavier, it’s easy to adjust your posture to compensate for the extra weight you’re carrying around with you all day, but it’s not necessarily adjusted correctly. A good example of this is when mums carry their baby on their hip and lean their body out to the other side to compensate.

Mother breastfeeding her child with proper posture for comfortable and nurturing feeding.

Good posture and moving with care will help to reduce back pain following a C-section. Try to avoid sudden movements and when you are lifting or holding your baby, engage your core and bend from your hips rather than curving your back. When you’re feeding, use a pillow for support to even out the weight in your arms and prevent you from slouching forwards.

Learn more: Lola&Lykke Experts Answer: 8 Tips to Relieve Back Pain while Breastfeeding

2. Engage in gentle exercises

In the early days following a caesarean you will be limited as to what you can do, and your doctor will need to check your recovery before giving you the green light to exercise. Starting to exercise before being signed off by the doctor could result in further injury and longer recovery. Usually from around 6 weeks, mums can start to engage in gentle postpartum exercises to strengthen their core.

Simple stretches and gentle movements to try are:

  • Walking
  • Pelvic tilts
  • Cat-Cow stretches (dipping and arching your back whilst on your hands and knees)
  • Child’s pose (kneel and stretch your arms in front of you whilst sitting back on your heels)
  • Gentle twists (on your hands and knees, gently twist your head round to see your heel and repeat slowly on both sides)
  • Yoga poses
  • Pelvic floor exercises

If you feel any pain or discomfort while exercising or stretching, stop immediately. It’s important to perform stretches with the proper technique and within a comfortable range of motion.

Learn more: How to Choose a Right Pelvic Floor Trainer to Improve Your Pelvic Health

3. Lifting techniques

You can start to bend over after a C-section only by using the correct lifting techniques that distribute your weight and reduce strain on your lower back. When you go to pick up your baby, bend at your hips or if they’re lower down, bend your knees to lower yourself steadily.

4. Use supportive devices

Postpartum belly wraps are a great way to aid your body with recovery following a caesarean section. Especially if you are experiencing back pain after a C-section, a postpartum support band will gently compress your core muscles which makes moving around doing day-to-day activities much easier.

Mums who have used Lola&Lykke’s postpartum belly band have noted how the high elasticity and medical grade material has supported their back and abdominal muscles, throughout their recovery following a vaginal delivery or caesarean delivery.

Smiling mother cuddling her baby while wearing a postpartum support band for added comfort and support

Steph, mum of six, says, “Myself a mum of six am always putting myself last... I've been suffering with bad back pain (years of slouching that’s pre kids to!) Especially when feeding the babies, I tend to slump forward trying to make their latch perfect and them comfortable but making myself in agony... the band wraps about your body giving you better posture. It basically a big hug for your body. I've seen a major improvement in my posture which has eased the pain in my back and tummy when feeding, and even my tummy feels tighter and firmer already! It's so easy to put on and can be hidden under your normal clothes or worn over them.”

Learn more: Understanding C-Section Overhang: Causes, Solutions, and Support

5. Get sufficient rest

Sleep is sometimes the best medicine for our bodies when they are in recovery or healing. Resting gives your body a chance to focus on using its energy to help you recover from the birth and C-section delivery. Laying or sitting comfortably also means your body is well supported and relaxed which reduces the chance of back pain.

6. Relaxation and Stress Management

When we feel stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol which can affect our bodies in several ways such as, reduce blood flow to blood vessels, create tension in your muscles, increase sensitivity to pain, and inflammation. You can find ways to manage stress and relax by taking part in regular gentle exercise such as walking or Yoga, getting sufficient sleep, and practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques such as meditation.

Learn more: C-section 101: Everything You Need to Know

7. Apply heat or cold therapy

There’s nothing more soothing than a hot bath to sink into with achy muscles or joints. You can also get the same effect by applying gel packs or hot water bottles to the area to help relieve any tension that’s built up in your muscles. Ice packs also have a similar effect as they help to reduce inflammation, putting your body in a more relaxing state if you wanted a massage to reduce any discomfort.

With either hot or cold packs, it’s best practice to not put them directly against the skin and to have a layer of clothing or material in between, so as not to result in further injury. It’s recommended to apply hot or cold packs for 15-20 minutes at a time and then alternate.

8. Get a massage

Your partner, a friend or a certified masseuse can give you a massage to relieve any pain you’re feeling from back ache. If you’re visiting a professional, it’s important to tell them about your surgery so they can be gentler around sensitive areas or position you appropriately. 

Learn more: Everything You Want (And Didn’t Know You Need) to Know About C-Section Recovery

Professional Treatments and Therapies for Back Pain Due to a C-section

1. Physical therapy

Once your doctor has given you the go ahead to start exercising after a cesarean delivery, you can begin to do simple exercises that will gently stretch and strengthen your core muscles. Exercises such as yoga poses, pilates, walking, and breathing techniques are all considered safe exercises to try after a caesarean. Walking will improve your blood circulation which in turn reduces spasms and inflammation and exercise in general will reduce back pain after a c-section and keep you mobile.

2. Massage therapy

When booking a massage, you need to check that the masseur is trained in postpartum massage, and you have been checked over by your doctor to ensure that your incision is healing correctly. Usually, you need to wait 6-8 weeks before you can get a massage after having a c-section. A massage is a great way to relieve tension, muscle spasms, and improve blood circulation. It helps your body to relax and de-stress which will also reduce your chances of experiencing back pain after a c-section.

3. Take pain medication to ease spasms

If you continue to experience back pain, or the pain worsens, speak to your doctor about what pain relief options are available. Be sure to mention if you are breastfeeding your baby so that the doctor can prescribe you a medicine that is safe to use whilst breastfeeding.

4. In Rare Occurrences: Surgical Intervention

Rarely, surgical intervention is required to give relief for back pain following a c-section. A study showed that women who had Low-Level Laser Treatment (LLLT) for back pain following a caesarean delivery had a significant reduction of pain, even just hours after the c-section surgery. If you experience numbness in your back or legs, high fever, or sever pain that limits your movement, speak to your doctor straight away so they can advise you on the care you need.

It's important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine which professional treatments and therapies are most appropriate for your specific condition and to ensure that you receive the best possible care.

Learn more: How Many C-Sections Can You Safely Have

Dietary Considerations and Lifestyle Changes for Long-Term Back Pain Relief

Dietary Considerations

When our bodies have aches and pains, we can make food choices to either help or hinder our bodies recovery. Nutrition plays a huge role in your recovery after having a c-section, and any surgery for that matter. Some foods have natural anti-inflammatory properties which would reduce your chances of aches and pains. Whilst other foods would better to avoid because they exacerbate inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory foods: 

Foods to avoid that cause inflammation:

  •  Fruits (e.g., berries, grapes, tomatoes)
  • Vegetables (e.g., broccoli)
  • Fatty fish (e.g., salmon)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Green tea
  • Avocado
  • Foods with added sugars (e.g., salad dressings, condiments)
  • Processed meat
  • Refined carbohydrates (white rice, white bread, pasta)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol

Staying hydrated is massively overlooked when it comes to managing pain and inflammation in the body. Proper hydration is crucial for maintaining healthy muscles and joints. By drinking enough water, you’re supporting the body's natural healing processes and it can help prevent muscle cramps and stiffness.

Variety of anti-inflammatory foods known for their potential in relieving back pain after C-section

If you feel that your body could use a helping hand to get the nutrition it needs, adding a supplement may be the way forward. First, consult with a healthcare provider before taking any supplements to check they are safe for you to take in your circumstances. Some individuals may benefit from supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, or glucosamine, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can support joint health.

Learn more: Lola&Lykke Experts Answer: Top Nutrition Tips For C-section Recovery

Lifestyle Changes

Maintaining a healthy weight in proportion with your height will help to reduce back pain. Excess body weight can put additional strain on your lower back which then leads to further back pain problems. If you're carrying excess weight, consider a balanced diet and regular exercise to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Consult with a healthcare provider or nutritionist for personalised guidance.

Maintaining good posture is crucial for preventing back pain. Be mindful of your posture when sitting, standing, and walking. Engage your core muscles to support your spine and consider ergonomic adjustments to your workspace and home environment. If you spend a lot of time doing certain activities such as sitting at a desk, for example, consider purchasing an office chair that supports your back and neck. Use a footrest so that your feet are at the correct height under the desk. When you’re feeding your baby, use pillows or a breastfeeding cushion to support the baby’s weight so you can sit comfortably without straining.

Regular exercise and staying mobile is essential to managing back pain. Incorporating regular, low-impact exercise into your routine can strengthen your back muscles and improve overall flexibility. Activities like swimming, walking, and yoga can be particularly beneficial. Consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.

Emotional Support Seeking

Managing post c-section back pain involves not only physical aspects but also addressing the emotional toll it can take. Here are some coping strategies and ways to seek emotional support:

  • Mind-Body Techniques: Practicing mind-body techniques like mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery can help you manage stress, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation.
  • Support Groups: Consider joining a support group for individuals who have experienced post c-section back pain. Sharing experiences and advice with others who have gone through similar challenges can be comforting and informative.
  • Professional Help: If you find that your back pain is taking a significant emotional toll or if you're struggling to cope, don't hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist or counsellor can provide strategies and support to help you navigate the emotional aspects of your pain.

Learn more: What Can Older Mums Expect for C-section Recovery: From Early Days to “All Grown Up”

When to see a doctor for back pain after a C-section

After your caesarean, you will most likely stay in the hospital for a few days so that medical professionals can keep a close eye on your recovery and help you with your newborn if you need them to. In the weeks following your surgery, your doctor will schedule regular check-ups with you and your baby to determine whether you need extra support or intervention to aid your recovery. They will also tell you if it is safe to start resuming certain activities such as driving and exercising.

If your back pain is severe and it is limiting your mobility, or you experience any of the following, you must consult your doctor without delay. Ignoring the warning signs may lead to further complications so an early diagnosis and intervention is crucial to your recovery post-surgery.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Difficulty in moving or walking.
  • Numbness or tingling.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Excessive bleeding or unusual discharge. 

And finally, it’s important to note that you do not have to “just get on with it” when you have back pain. Your body has grown a human being, gone through major surgery and now you’re expected to care for a newborn whilst in recovery – that’s a lot for one person to take on! Be proactive in asking for help and seeking support to help you manage postpartum back pain. To learn more about recovery following a c-section, head over to our postpartum health and recovery blog for recent articles with answers to all of your questions.