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In my field of work I see many Mums who are suffering from chronic pain in their neck, shoulders and upper back – it is probably one of the most common symptoms that I treat.

I say symptom in that usually the cause of their discomfort is due to their posture.  A persons posture can be affected by a number of factors and unfortunately poor posture can have a large impact on the person’s quality of life, especially as they age.

There are many stresses that are placed on your body particularly as a mum. When you have a young baby you are constantly lifting, bending and twisting with them in your arms and as they start to grow their extra weight can cause additional strain.

The most common areas this can cause tension in are the muscles that lie medially (or towards the spine) to the scapula (shoulder blade).

The rhomboids and levator scapula are generally very tight which can cause discomfort when sleeping on your side, lifting heavy items and can be the source of tension headaches.

What can you do to help?

If you believe that your posture may be a source of your pain or headaches, the earlier that you can identify the issue the better.

If you notice that you are particularly sore after breastfeeding or bath time take a minute to notice what your posture is like while you are doing these activities, how you are holding yourself and where exactly the tightness and pain presents.

Even when doing simple daily activities we can unnecessarily strain our bodies.

My simple tip is; always try to alternate the side in which you carry your child and also other things such as a heavy handbag or grocery shopping. This will help to prevent muscle imbalances and repetitive strain injuries.



Stretching

There are a number of stretches that I have found particularly helpful for clients that are presenting with upper body pain due to poor posture.

Stretching is a totally under rated tool for relieving tension, stress and reducing pain. It doesn’t take much time or equipment and when done on a regular basis can really make a huge difference to your level of pain.

My most successful stretches are listed below:

Thoracic Flexion Stretch – You should feel this stretch between your shoulder blades and through your upper back.

STEP 1: Start with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.

Cross over opposite arm to leg and hold onto the back of your knees. Your knees should remain bent.

STEP 2: Tuck your chin into your chest.

STEP 3: Straighten out your knees and arch your back away from your legs. Continue holding onto the back of your knees.

Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds.

 

Happy Cat / Angry Cat Stretch – This stretch should be felt through your lower and upper back.

STEP 1: Start on your hands and knees. Your hands and knees should be hip width apart. Your back should be flat.

STEP 2: Arch your back away from the floor. Tuck your chin and hips under to accentuate the stretch.

Hold this position for 5 seconds.

STEP 3: Next, arch your back towards the floor. Tilt your head up to look towards the ceiling.

Hold this position for 5 seconds.

Repeat both stretches 5 times.

 

Wall Angel Stretch – This stretch should be felt through your upper back, shoulders and neck.

STEP 1: Start with your feet shoulder width apart and knees bent in a wall sitting position.

Your back should be flat against the wall. Your arms should be at 90 degrees. Your wrists, elbows, shoulders and back of your head should be touching the wall.

For some people just getting into this position will be enough of a stretch, if not continue to Step 2.

STEP 2: Move your arms in an arc motion, keeping your hands, arms and back flat against the wall.

When you start to feel tension, pause and hold this position for 5 seconds. Remember to breathe!

Return to start position and repeat the stretch 5 times.

 

Neck Stretches – These stretches should be felt through the neck and shoulders.

STEP 1: Start standing with feet hip width apart. Tilt your ear towards your shoulder, using the same side arm to help.

Your opposite arm can be tucked behind your back in order to keep the opposite shoulder from creeping up.

Hold this position for 15-20 seconds.

STEP 2: Next turn your head to look towards your armpit. This will help to stretch the back of the neck.

Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds.

Repeat both stretches on the other side.

 

Shoulder Stretching – This stretch should be felt through the front or back of the shoulder (depending on where you are restricted.)

STEP 1: Start standing side on to the wall. Your hand should be against the wall with fingers pointing towards the ceiling. Your shoulders should be relaxed and elbow bent.

STEP 2: Twist your shoulders away from the wall until you feel a slight stretch through the front and back of your shoulder.

Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds

Repeat on the other side.

Do you make time each day to stretch? Has it made a difference to how you feel? Share in the comments below.

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  • I do yoga a couple of days a week, lots of great stretches in yoga for all over general,well being and body function

    Reply

  • This is interesting! Thank you for sharing this!

    Reply

  • A great post and really clear with the photos to explain. Thank you.

    Reply

  • I’m going to start stretching. Watch this space. Thanks for the tips.

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  • I enjoy yoga and that has some excellent stretch moves that compliment these exercises as well. Going to add these to my sessions

    Reply

  • I’ve increased my massage appointments to three weekly. I have just realised it would be more beneficial and cheaper to do these everyday instead.

    Reply

  • I started yoga and pilates a few months ago and since then i stretch daily and it has made such a difference in all aspects of my life. Driving, sleeping, playing with the kids even sex. Wish i did it sooner.

    Reply

  • I stretch 5 days a week and always my lower body, legs and hips. I get migranes and never thought to stretch my upper body! I look forward to trying this!


    • You should definitely try some upper body stretching, migraines can often be be triggered by tension in the neck and shoulders. Good luck! X

    Reply

  • I love stretching… if it wasn’t for yoga I would be a real mess. thanks for sharing

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  • what great tips…as a mum we do forget to do these things…


    • Thanks! Glad you liked it. The hard part is remembering to do them on a regular basis but you will definitely feel better for it!

    Reply

  • Thanks for a wonderful and very detailed article, the photo’s are super and a added bonus.
    Both hubby and I agree that when carrying a couple of grocery bags that the best way is to carry even bags on both hands. thanks so much for sharing.

    Reply

  • Thank you for the post. These are all stretches we have done in yoga. Whilst I don’t do them every day, stretching is a regular part of my yoga class that I absolutely love.

    Reply

  • @caitlin.. Thanks for writing this article… Tried these stretches and I do really feel good afterwards.. Definitely will be a part my daily regime..


    • Thanks! Yeah I have found them very effective myself and my clients love them!

    Reply

  • This post went straight into my favourites!

    I stretch every day but have never done any of these ones except the cat one. I have BAD back pain after the birth of my second child (he’s very cuddly so I carry him around a bit too much). Looking for anything I can do to make myself a little stronger and more agile :-)


    • I’m so glad you enjoyed these stretches! I find them very effective, enjoy! :)

    Reply

  • This article is very clear in demonstrating and detailing practical stretches. The photos are like a highlights version of a yoga class. Very well written and photographed. Thank you.

    Reply

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