postpartum recovery

Physical Therapy versus Personal Trainer During Postpartum Healing

After my class the other day I was approached my one of the moms who wanted to know what the next step for her should be during her postpartum healing. She was feeling disconnected and “wrecked” after her third baby and really wanted to do more for herself.

She’s taken several of my classes over the years but nothing consistent due to life (on both our ends).

Needless to say she knows that I’m a PT who helps new moms. But she still wasn’t sure if she needed to see a PT or go to a personal trainer.

This opened my eyes up to see that even those moms who I think are aware of the benefits of postpartum PT and how important it is, STILL, question if it’s necessary.

Then as if the universe was telling me to help moms understand more an Instragram feed I follow posted a quick list of differences between postpartum core rehab and personal training.

I took this as a sign to go deeper.

So if you have ever questioned if postpartum PT is right for you versus seeing a personal trainer here are the top 6 differences.

Assessment

A physical therapist has been extensively trained to perform a whole body physical evaluation. This includes not only testing your strength and flexibility, but joint function, pain assessment, motor function, mobility, posture and alignment, and when necessary an internal pelvic exam. This evaluation is based on your history, current complaint and goals.

This provides you and the PT a more in depth look at what your body needs during your one-on-one care and home program.

Manual Care

What this means is if your body has muscle spasm, fascial restrictions, muscle trigger points, joint hypomobility and other musculoskeletal issues that really benefit from hands on manipulation a PT can perform special manual therapy techniques to help.

There are many different types of manual therapy and some PTs specialize in one or a few techniques. By performing these it helps your body reduce inflammation & pain, improve flexibility & motor control, organ functioning and overall well being.

Inside - Out

When you work with a pelvic floor PT for postnatal core rehab we focus on the deep muscles first. You know those muscles that influence and are most effected by pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

The deep core four!

The pelvic floor, transversus abdominus, multifidus and respiratory diaphragm.

These muscles need to be addressed first before moving on to the big ones surrounding them. This is because they provide the stability to your organs, pelvis and spine joints. They help manage the forces and pressures within your trunk to reduce strain on your body during activity.

Focus inside then out!

Fascial Functioning

The fascial system is a network of tissue this is interwoven into every fiber in your body. This tissue influences every other fiber and function around it. When it becomes injured and dehydrated it can cause dysfunction like diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and pain, among other problems.

A PT can help you manage your fascia through nourishing myofascial release and fascial stretching.

Home Program

I believe one of the most important aspects of PT is the home program. The instruction of what to do when you are on your own. Not only the exercises, but the habits, body mechanics, lifestyle modifications and self care necessary to reach your goals.

Functional Training

Exercises will only get you so far, especially when healing from a birth and taking care of a baby. That’s where functional training can up level any exercise routine. A PT builds upon your strength, flexibility, posture, balance, fascial and mobility exercises and reflects it in how you perform your daily tasks.

Meaning you learn how to move safely and efficiently while caring for yourself, your baby and the rest of your life. These new movement patterns are enhanced and through exercise and mindfulness. Both of which are harnessed through a home program.

Remember, these are only the top 6 differences between PT and a personal trainer for postpartum core [really all healing] rehab.

In other words, seeking help with a highly trained postpartum PT after giving birth is the first step to recovery. Then once you have reconnected to your body and addressed any dysfunction seeking the more longer term assistance of a personal trainer can help you reach other fitness or lifestyle goals you may have.

Curious how postpartum PT can help you? Let’s chat. Schedule a FREE informational consult call with me now to build your knowledge for life long pelvic health.

You’ve got this!

How to uplevel your healing during postpartum recovery.

You just had a baby and feeling blissed out by meeting this new little human(s).

But you are also sore and don't recognize your body. Your body doesn't respond to your commands and is uncomfortable to do basic functions.

This is totally normal those first few weeks after birth.

You're body just went through the quickest physical change it will ever naturally go through.

Then what?

Bruised and injured tissue are nourished and heal. Your uterus shrinks and other organs slowly shift to normal position. Your body finds its way to regular functioning through mind-body connection. And much more.

This is happens while caring for your new baby and moving your body in new ways; creating new habits and movement patterns.

What happens when you're having a hard time healing and reconnecting to your body?

You are not alone mama!

This is very common and why it takes time to feel "normal" again.

It's also why resting and asking for help is so important after birth.

But who do you ask for help to bring balance to your mom body?

A pelvic floor physical therapist who specializes in postpartum care.

But how soon after birth should you ask for help?

It's not enough to wait until your 6 week visit.

Ideally you will find an amazing PT during pregnancy who will follow you through birth into postpartum.

But if you didn't, you can see a PT as early as 2 weeks postpartum!

That's right there are things you can do before you see your birth provider that are safe and very effective to help you recover from pregnancy and birth.

Some of these things, like core breath coordination can start within hours of giving birth.

Most importantly you will learn how to work with your healing body. You need to rest yes but when you are not snuggling up with baby you will be moving around to care for baby and yourself.

Figuring out safe ways to move in and out of bed, traverse stairs, lifting and carrying baby, breastfeeding positions, what exercises to reduce muscle tension from breastfeeding, and much more.

You can also begin manual nourishment of your healing tissues. Myofascial release and visceral mobilization are only two techniques that work wonders after birth to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and assist organs in healing.

Then after 6 weeks we can take your care a step further by assessing the pelvic floor internally. Testing for weakness, scar adhesions, pain, coordination, pelvic organ position and more.

So not only will you know how to work on what you can see but also those super important internal bits that you can't!

Guidance by a PT will help make the most impact on your healing body and ensure safe reconnecting and avoidance of those undesirable pelvic floor problems!

But don't worry if you're past the 6 weeks postpartum, it's not too late to start your pelvic health postpartum healing journey.

Should you use a Postpartum Belly Binder?

I'm asked a lot about the use of abdominal binders and braces after having a baby.

Maybe you're considering using a belly binder after having your baby or you heard belly binding is good for a diastasis recti.

Before you rush out to purchase a binder, here are a few things to consider first.

Belly binding has been used for hundreds of years after having a baby. Typically a binder is used within a few days of birth for 2-6 weeks.  There are special cases that a binder is used longer for more severe abdominal separation, but should always be addressed with a postpartum physical therapist first.

Here are some benefits for belly binding*:

  • Provides postural support for the torso and organs as they return to pre-pregnancy position

  • Supports and assists abdominal wall healing and diastasis recti recovery

  • Supports the body's natural spine and posture realignment post birth

  • Constant pressure on the torso and abdomen hastens healing by reducing water, fat and air in the tissue and cells

  • Stabilizes loose ligaments

  • Helps to prevent and relieve lower back aches and strains

  • Prevents slouching while feeding or holding your child

Your goal after having baby should be returning to optimal movement and function in your body. So when does belly binding no longer promote healing and return to function but cause problems instead?

1. A belly binder is only meant for short periods of time.

If worn for longer than 6 weeks (unless directed by a specialist practitioner) it starts to replace the function of our core muscles. Which means the muscles no longer need to build strength to do the job they are meant to do...support your posture and organs, and stabilize your spine for movement. Your body will rely on the binder, which not a long term solution.

2. Cinching can cause too much compression.

When pulled too tight the compression around your waist alters the natural pressure system without your trunk. Instead of even pressure, it is now pushed upward into your chest and downward into your pelvis. This can lead to hernias and pelvis organ prolapse, which nobody wants.

3. It alters your breathing pattern

When you breath your trunk expands in all directions, up, down, front, back, and to the sides. The abdomen is meant to rise and fall as your trunk and pelvis expand with every inhale. If your abdomen is compressed, as your respiratory diaphragm contracts and pulls down while you inhale there is no place for the lungs to go except just into the chest. This causes shallow breathing, leading to an increase in cortisol levels and perpetual fight or flight mode.

4. Your core may establish bad habits

There are two ways this may happen. One, the core may stay contracted. The constant compression triggers a perpetual contraction of the abdominal muscles. This is like always holding your shoulders up to your ears. Eventually those muscles  become tight and unresponsive to proper movement. The core needs to relax to function properly. Part of the core's job is to let go to allow you to go to the bathroom or to have sex. If the muscles are in a state of contraction this cannot happen! A tight muscle can no longer provide stability for movement, which may lead to [more] pain and dysfunction.

Two, the core may push out when it contracts. Having a binder wrapped around our waist gives the body something to push into. When someone pushes your shoulder, what do you want to naturally do? Push back.

For some (like myself) this is what can happen when wearing a belly binder. When you brace against the binder it creates internal pressure, again leading to hernias and prolapse, and bad form for an abdominal separation. You may not even realize you're doing it.

In the end, do I think belly binders are bad?

No.

I think they are beneficial for immediately after having a baby when you are mindful of how your body is responding to wearing one.

You need to be aware of how you body feels when you take it off. Are you paying attention to your movement patterns or just relying on the binder? Do you have a game plan for weaning off the binder?

These are all relevant and important things to consider before you use a binder.

*https://www.thewombwellnesscenter.com/postpartum-bengkung-belly-binding.html

Reconnect to your Body like a Baby

As my son becomes more active and works really hard to crawl [forward] I can see how similar movement patterns in babies are like those I use with my moms.

Most of us can picture the stages of gross motor development in infants. They start off as blobs not able to move much and when they do move they expend a tremendous amount of energy. Gradually being able to pick up their head, lift their arms and legs while on their back, push up while on their belly, roll, and so on.

There are similar movement patterns that we look for in all babies, but how they achieve those goals and how long it takes them may be slightly different for each baby.

Typically they can't move on to the next skill until they've mastered the one before. And even when the skill has been mastered, they may relapse a little when they are working on the next skill.

Babies have very little core strength to start with and need to build it up through movements that start in positions where gravity has no influence on their core. These positions are on their back, stomach and side.

Then they are able to gradually work into a sitting position. Then kneeling, hands and knees, and eventually standing. Standing takes the most amount of effort to stabilize the body against gravity before they start to move in a standing position. Even in each position babies pause to find stability and balance...like rocking on hands and knees before crawling.

There is a reason why babies work through different stages to find and build core strength. They have to create stability in the trunk before they gain mobility in the limbs. The further away an object from their center of gravity the harder it is to control. Think lever arms from physics - even a light object can feel heavy is you hold it away from your body.

Remember when you were a kid on a see-saw (teeter-tauter) and if you were evenly balanced with the opposite kid you would either have to had another kid which ever side was lighter or the heavier kid could move closer to the center.

We are hard wired to work on being stable around our center of gravity [belly button/low back area] then work outward.

This is why when your core is weak after having a baby reconnecting to your core LIKE a baby makes the most sense.

Finding balance through very little movement in positions that don't require work against gravity and working to more dynamic movement that require work against gravity.

The big difference between your body and baby is your body as the influence of years of other habits and patterns intertwined into the weak core. Tight muscles, poor posture, joint position, injured tissue [scarring], uncoordinated muscles etc.

These all influence how your body will reconnect.

So simply doing "core" exercises on your back may not be enough.

Recognizing the influencers, using props and modifying the movements to reduce the effect they have on your body, then working through the natural progression of movement will help you achieve the most connection to your core.

And just like your baby, it will take you time, you may relapse a little on a past movement when you move on the next step, you may get frustrated when you can't do what your mind is telling you to do and you'll be super excited when you do achieve your goal.

You may THINK lying on your back and doing breathing exercises or arm raises are super easy. But when you have to incorporate your alignment, good posture, stability and breath, it's not so easy at first.

So when you resume core exercise after having a baby, think of it this way, simple to complex movements are the way to go.

This is how I work with my clients and how the way I progress the core exercises in my almost complete 4th Trimester program in Expecting Pelvic Fitness.

If you're ready to start reconnecting to your core but don't know how to work through the different positions let's chat!

Or head over to Expecting Pelvic Fitness to learn more about the almost finished but still available to purchase 4th Trimester program!