Woman First

5 Everyday Motions that Can Harm Your Body

by Sandra Gordon

Everyday mom movements can wreak havoc on your back and shoulders.
Here are five body-breakers and how to avoid them.

1. Lugging an Infant Car Seat
DON’T: Lean to the side and carry it on your forearm like a purse. “This position stresses your back, shoulder, and especially that arm,” says physical therapist Mary Ellen Modica. ”Carrying an infant car seat on your arm is equivalent to walking around with three or four full paint cans in one hand, something most people wouldn’t do, but yet, they’ll carry a car seat that way.”
DO: Put both hands on the handle, bend your elbows, and carry the car seat in front of you. The less distance between your torso and what you’re carrying, the better for your back. Using both hands also helps distribute the weight evenly.

2. Lifting Your Baby From the Crib
DON’T: Lock your knees or hold your baby at arms’ length as you pick him up. “This puts extreme pressure on your spinal discs,” says Nicholas Warren, Sc.D., ergonomics coordinator at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
DO: Plant your feet shoulder-width apart, lower the crib railing, and bend your knees. Then bring your baby as close to your body as possible before lifting him up.

3. Carrying a Toddler
DON’T: Balance your child on one hip. This can strain your back and the ligaments on that side of your body. In addition, as your arm presses against your child, your muscles continually contract, reducing blood flow. Over time, this can lead to trauma of the tissues in your arm and shoulder.
DO: Hold your child in front of you with her legs wrapped around your waist. Keeping your child centered will help you stand upright — your spine’s natural position. Another option: Use a stroller (or encourage your child to walk) as often as possible.

4. Putting Your Child on Your Lap
DON’T: Lean forward while you remain seated. “As you lift, the pressure on your spinal discs multiplies to three to ten times the weight of your child,” Modica says. “If you’re tall, lifting a 20-pound toddler could put as much as 200 pounds of pressure on your back!”
DO: Get down on one knee with the other foot planted in front of you, and hold her as you move back into your seat. Or let your child climb into your lap.

5. Lifting Your Toddler From a Car Seat
DON’T: Do the twisted car seat lift. That’s when, with both your feet on the ground, you twist and lean into the car seat with your arms extended, your toddler at the end of them. Lifting your toddler that way can harm your knees, lower back, neck, shoulder, elbows and wrists.
DO: Put one leg into the car and face the car seat as you’re putting your child in it, advises New Jersey physical therapist Traci O’Hara. You’ll take pressure off your back. If your car seat is in the middle of the back seat, climb in and face the car seat as you lift your child into it.

Get Strong!

Strengthening your abdominal, back, pelvic, and hip muscles can reduce your risk of developing a repetitive-stress injury. Physical therapist Peggy Brill recommends practicing this simple exercise at least three times a week.

1. Lie on your back with your arms straight up toward the ceiling.

2. Keeping your back flat against the floor, lift your legs over your pelvis and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.

3. In one slow, smooth motion, bring your left knee toward your chest as you extend your right leg.

4. Keep alternating legs as you incorporate your arms. When your left leg moves toward your chest, extend your left arm over your head, and vice versa. Repeat up to a count of 60.