In this post, Dr. Kayla Borchers will unpack common ailments she sees in moms through her physical therapy private practice. There is so much we can do to prevent onset of injuries prior to their onset, and lots that can be done when pain is present.
Let’s dive in!
One of the most common threads of injuries that I see as a physical therapist are overuse injuries. These are injuries that occur over time when we do not give the body appropriate rest or when the body is not ready for a heightened level of physical activity that we jump straight into too fast and too soon.
We commonly see this immediately postpartum when women go from virtually no specific exercise for 6 weeks. Then, after receiving their 6-week clearance from their OBGYN or Midwife, jump straight into their prior activity levels. It is important to ease into activity postpartum in a slow and steady manner. this is where a physical therapist trained in prenatal or postpartum care such as myself can be extremely beneficial to help you navigate this process.
Spoiler alert: there is a lot we can do to begin rebuilding postpartum strength and stability prior to the 6 week clearance!! Questions? Dr. Kayla specializes in helping moms navigate this in a seamless way postpartum and beyond.
Overuse injuries are also common when women start new workout routines. This could be deciding to run your first 5k or when you begin training for your first half marathon. Oftentimes, if the strength level is not appropriate to begin plyometric or impact activities, then we will see overuse injuries occur. Overuse injuries come on slow and increase in intensity with time. This includes injuries such as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, patellar tendinopathy, biceps tendinopathy or tennis elbow. We can also see flare-ups of osteoarthritis in this category.
When these type of injuries come on, the answer is not always rest. While yes, reducing one’s overall activity load will help dampen the pain symptoms, this is not the answer for healing. In order to help the tissues heal, we need to provide the right amount of stress to the tissue. Isometric exercises are typically the best starting point here. Then, we progress into eccentric strengthening. This is strengthening the muscle while it is lengthening at the same time. Once again, a physical therapist such as Dr. Kayla can help you navigate through!
In order to prevent these types of injuries, a slow and steady progression is recommended when beginning any new activity. While yes, this is true for the postpartum season of life, it is also true when starting any type of new activity for any individual at any point in time.
Do you have goals to go to the gym 5 days per week? That’s great! Let’s start with two or three days with a day of rest in between. On those days between your gym workouts, you can focus on simply walking either on a treadmill or outside. This will help the body ease into your new activity levels and will help you avoid the onset of pain.
The same is true for starting any new types of group fitness classes. I would recommend not attending on back-to-back days to start. Rather, going on for instance a Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the first two or three weeks and then adding in additional days so long as you’re not experiencing any soreness that lasts more than 48 hours or any pain onset. It is also important to have at least one rest day each week where you truly are focused on recovery in order to allow the muscles and the nervous system time to repair.
Another common injury space we see in motherhood are acute injuries. This includes things such as “throwing your back out” in which one quick movement causes a sudden onset of pain. We most often see this for back pain. Your kid jumps on to you and you weren’t ready for it. All the sudden your back seizes and is in excruciating pain. Or, you’re going up the stairs holding a wiggly child and all the sudden your back starts hurting in a sharp, intense way. In order to prevent injuries such as this, specifically at the back, it is important to ensure that you are optimally strengthening your core. This will help prevent the onset of back pain by having good strength and reactivity to respond to sudden impact such as a kiddo jumping onto you by having the appropriate strength and reactivity in order to not induce pain.
Acute injuries can also come on when you are, for instance, running and roll your ankle or playing kickball with your kids and hyperextend your knee. While all of these instances are not always avoidable, choosing to do strengthening in a functional way that mimics daily life activities will help your body be able to adapt and respond to various life activities that are thrown your way. Again, we can’t prevent everything but the more we train our bodies in a variety of movement patterns, utilizing a variety of weights, varying speeds of activity or force, and using different support surfaces, our body will then be able to adapt and respond to environmental changes such as those described.
Pelvic Floor Considerations
While this does not always include pain, it would be remiss if we did not mention pelvic floor symptoms. Pelvic floor dysfunction is extremely common in women who may or may not have had children. Often, these symptoms can start in our teenage years and continue throughout adulthood. These symptoms can then be extrapolated during pregnancy and postpartum. Still, many women are not offered help. Please know there is SO MUCH THAT CAN BE DONE to help. Both preventatively and in forms of treatment after symptoms have already onset.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can be pushed aside as common or normal and thus disregarded as an important issue to address. Let me be clear: these symptoms are extremely common, but they are not “normal”. Our society has done women a disservice by pushing aside these concerns when voiced. Please know there is help.
So what is pelvic floor dysfunction? It can include symptoms such as:
pain with sex
pain when inserting a tampon
difficulty or straining with bowel movements
constant urge to pee
inability to fully release the bladder fully
difficulty holding in urination
feelings of heaviness in the vagina
Symptoms stemming from the pelvic floor can also be masked as hip pain, deep buttocks pain, tailbone pain or low back pain.
Dr. Kayla is well-versed in treatment for each of these areas. If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out at drkaylaborchers.com.