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The Wear and Tear of Parenting: Safe Lifting Techniques for Parents

Updated: Feb 5

Most people probably don’t associate parenting with injury. When we think of the word “injury” we usually associate it with sports or some sort of reckless activity, parenting might not be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact being a parent can actually make you prone to a certain kind of injury known as a repetitive strain injury (RSI.) RSI’s are caused by repeatedly doing the same activity with poor posture and on a regular basis and can cause pain in muscles, tendons, and joints. Think about it, how often have you carried your baby in her car seat with your forearm or lifted your toddler from the floor? Several times a day, right? Have you developed lower back or shoulder pain since you became a parent? You could have a repetitive strain injury. Who knew parenting could be so dangerous?

Pain and Parenting — Proper Child Lifting Techniques for Your Body RSI’s are common among athletes, people who work on computers, people who have jobs that require a lot of physical activity, and musicians. But RSI’s can also occur from lifting and holding your child, carrying a baby in a heavy car seat, bending often to tie little shoes, or by frequently picking toys up off the floor.

The most common type of parenting RSI’s are felt in the knees, elbows, wrists, and back. And it is especially common to exacerbate an existing injury once you become a parent. The good news is that injury can be avoided by paying attention to proper child-lifting and holding techniques.

Carrying your child Parents often prop their child on a hip by jutting their spine and hip to one side to support the child. According to Jen Delorenzo, a licensed physical therapist of, this is one of the most damaging activities long term “…and can shorten the structures of one side of the body and tighten up the other side of the body…”

Tip: Hold your child in front of you instead of off to one side. Keeping her close to your body as you lift her into place. Let her wrap her legs around you once she’s in your arms. Use a front carrier as an alternative to holding your baby in your arms. If using a carrier, keep your spine straight and your shoulders slightly back to avoid strain.

Lugging baby in a car seat It’s common to carry that car seat on your forearm which can cause serious strain on your elbow, shoulder, and back. “Carrying an infant car seat on your arm is equivalent to walking around with three or four full paint cans in one hand…” says Mary Ellen Modica, a physical therapist at Schwab STEPS Rehabilitation Clinics in Chicago.

Tip: Hold that carrier with both hands in front of you. Use your biceps and core rather than your back muscles to support the carrier. Keep it close to your body.

Lifting your toddler from his crib Many parents don’t even think about back strain when they lift their child from the crib. They’ll lock their knees and hold him at arm’s length as they lift him. This can strain your back and spinal disks.

Tip: Keep your feet hip distance apart and knees slightly bent. If there’s a railing on the crib, lower it as much as possible. Bend from the hips and bring your child close to your body. Close your arms around him and straighten at the hips while lengthening your knees.

Car seat lifting baby to the carseat So many parents do a twisted bending action when placing their little one in the car seat. This puts a ton of strain on your spine, neck, shoulders, and elbows, just to name a few.

Tip: Place one foot inside the car and face the car seat as you place your child. This will take the strain off your back. For car seats in the middle of the back seat, crawl into the car and place yourself facing the car seat before placing your child.

Treating and Preventing Child-caused RSI’s Come to a Mod Physique class! Seriously, strength training is one of the best measures you can take to prevent a repetitive strain injury. Weight lift to build strong muscles in your back and arms, build your core strength, and stretch frequently.

Postnatal Pilates is a great way to stay in shape after the baby’s born and fight chronic bad posture. Click here for more information about Postnatal Pilates classes offered through Mod Physique.

Here are a few stretches you can do at home or before coming to class:

Foam Roller Grab a foam roller and place it length-wise under your spine and shoulders as you lie on the floor. Let your head relax on to the top of the roller and your hands and arms fall open to the sky. Relax here and take in some long, easy breaths.

Wrist Stretches and Rolls Hold your arm long in front of you, elbow straight. Gently bend your wrist and fingers down with the other hand, then up. You should feel a stretch through your forearm and wrist. Clench your hand into a fist and roll your hand to one side then the other. Switch hands.

Side Bends/Twists Mermaid is a good stretch from Pilates. Sit with your feet off to one side tucked behind you. Take your arms to a "T" side bend over to the floor away from your legs until the elbow touches the mat. Stretch your ribs directly side softening the ribs and lengthening the hip away from the ribs. Come back to a "T" with the arms and side bend towards your feet.

Don’t let child care wreak havoc on your body. RSI’s can be avoided by practicing good posture and safe child lifting techniques. Remember, you don’t have to do it perfectly every time but if you can focus on good posture most of the time, you’ll do less long term damage and recover quickly when you can’t be as careful.

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