Friday, June 26, 2020

Mom Back Pain Prevention Tips


Guest Post

By Emmanuelle Lehat 
Ergonomics Specialist & Mother of 3 

Readers Note: This guest post is for informational purposes only and it is not intended as a substitute for professional wellness and medical advice.

Moms: How to Prevent Back Pain During Quarantine

My son was only a year old. I was driving about two hours every day between home, day care (my parents home), and work. The drive was just killing my back. Combine this with constantly bending to lift my son, my back just felt like it was going to give out. Fast forward a few years and two more children later. I have learned some tricks of the trade. I've also made some minor adjustments to my lifestyle and now rarely experience back discomfort.

Mom Tips to Lift Your Child Without Back Pain

A Real Mom's Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

With the new reality of homeschooling and quarantining, us moms have assumed many more childcare duties. From home arts-and-crafts projects to more diaper changes, childcare burdens keep on increasing. Where mothers who sent their kids to daycare spent 10-12 hours with their children, they now spend 16-18 hours caring for their kids.

What can this increase in childcare do to our backs? Furthermore, when lifting infants and young kids, what positions should we avoid and which postures can we integrate into our new lives? Based on my first-hand experience as a mother as well as an ergonomic professional, in this guest post, I'll be explaining some strategies to aid back pain prevention.  These tips are supported by research in the field that every mom caring for young children should be aware of whether you work outside the home or you are a stay-at-home mom.

What is Wrong with How I Lift My Child? 

Between the 2 AM feeding sessions and getting the kids to come to the dinner table, mothers often feel that life is out of their control. I often feel this way, especially at this time Staying at home for long hours, I don’t have enough time to complete my daily chores and, at the same time, take care of myself.

Overwhelmed and weary with long hours of childcare duties, mothers awkwardly reach during baths, bend at the back when lifting infants, or tilt or twist the spine when playing with toddlers on the floor.

Most mothers tend to lift their kids using what’s called the “scoop lift” – bending at the waist and keeping their knees straight. Despite the increased tension, mothers believe that the “scoop lift” is the safest and most efficient way to lift their children (Sanders and Morse, 2005).

In reality, the “scoop lift” places increased stress on the lower back. Rather than using your hips and knees to assist with lifting, with the “scoop lift” you only use the back muscles. Additionally, with the “scoop lift” mothers lift away from their core, placing increased stress and weight on the lower back. 

Researchers have long established that the “scoop lift” is not great for us. In fact, women who used the “scoop lift” are four times more likely to experience a herniated disc. For women trying to manage their careers from isolation while simultaneously caring for children, the stress on our back is even greater (See Sanders and Morse, 2005).

What Can I Do to Avoid Back Pain or Injury? 


Steps to Lifting Child Without Back Pain

Tips for Properly Lifting Kids


The best way to lift ergonomically is to bend at the hips and knees. Before lifting, you want to come close to your child. Keep your feet a little more than shoulder length apart and pointed in the direction of your kid. You want to then lower yourself with your knees and hips. Finally, grasp the child safely and slowly elevate your body. Lifting from the hips and knees distributes the child’s weight more evenly across the different muscle groups and places less stress on your lower back. 

You might need to adapt this method when lifting a toddler out of the crib (Unless you are extremely tall, you cannot fully bend at the knees and hips when lifting over the bars). When lifting out of a crib, I encourage lifting with the “stand-lift method” This method can be used for children who do not stand on their own but are starting to crawl. 

To perform the “stand-lift method,” bring the child from the mattress to the standing position. Parents should keep the child’s feet on the mattress when bringing the child closer and to the standing position (don’t lift the child off the mattress just yet). Once the child is standing while resting their feet on the mattress and closer to you, you want to look up and gently lift your toddler. With the child standing before lifting, mothers can lift the child from a higher position and limit stress placed on their lower back.


There is also a mental health component to back pain. When parents perform meaningful activities and structure their day, they are less likely to experience lower back discomfort. Additionally, believing that your actions – whether exercise, stretching, or pain management techniques - improve your health can alleviate back pain (See Keedy et al., 2014 and Harkappa et al, 1991).

In this respect, try as much as possible to structure you and your kids’ day. During this trying time of COVID-19 and quarantine, you should make a little schedule for yourself.

For your morning routine, try something like this:

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM - Wake up and Prepare for the Day 
8:30 AM – 9:00 AM – Breakfast 
9:00 AM – 9:30 AM – Song and Dance Time
9:30 AM – 10:00 AM – Free Play
10:00 AM – 10:15 AM – Snack Time 
10:15 AM – 11:00 AM – Arts and Crafts 
11:00 AM – 11:15 AM – Stretch with the kids 
11:15 AM – 12:00 PM - Lunch Time 
12:00 – 1:00 PM – Kids Nap/Mommy Indoor Aerobic Exercises 

Try making a schedule that is customized for your unique family lifestyle, one that incorporates both your and your children’s’ needs. Right now worry is at an all-time high and there is a fear of getting sick. However, try to focus on what you can control – namely you and the kids' routine. With your day planned and structured, you can increase your sense of control, prevent back pain, and make the most of your time in isolation. 

4 Step Scapular Stretch
4-Step Scapular Back Stretch Technique


Once the kids are asleep, try to perform some light aerobic exercise and back stretches. If you can, try running on an elliptical, performing Pilates in a standing position, or, if permitted, walking briskly outdoors. Exercises while standing upright, like jogging, can help protect against lower back pain (See Woolf & Glaser, 2004). 

One stretch that I often recommend is the 4-step scapular stretch described here

1) Keep your shoulders at your side and bend both elbows so your hands are in front of you 
2) Make a fist and pull both shoulders back while looking up 
3) Try bringing your shoulder blades together and hold that position for 5 seconds 
4) Repeat the stretch as tolerated 

This is a great stretch because it promotes muscle groups that are rarely used in childcare. Mothers often bend forward when bathing, lifting, or holding their kids. The scapular stretch does the exact opposite – stretching those muscles used for extending the back and shoulders. 


You are probably spending more time with your kids now. With increased childcare duties, you can experience more back pain. In this post, I reviewed several tips to help alleviate and prevent back pain. 

First, try to maintain good posture when lifting children. You want to bend at the hips and knees rather than solely at the back. As much as you can, try not to “scoop lift” your kids. 

Second, try to structure your and your children’s day. There is a lot of fear out there. Try to organize those things that are in your control - your daily schedule. 

Third, you want to stretch and perform aerobic exercises daily. 

It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as your pre-quarantine routine. Try exercises that feel right for you and fit into your daily schedule. In these crazy times with the increased burden of childcare, these tips should help alleviate discomfort and protect your back.

Mom Dad With Two Kids
Emmanuelle & her hubbie with 2 of 3 kids

About the Author

Emmanuelle Lehat is Associate Ergonomics Specialist at Ergonomics Advance, Beverly Hills, California and the mother of three children ranging in age from 1 to 5. An ergonomic specialist with advanced certification from Colorado State University, Emmanuelle conducts office ergonomic assessments to decrease discomfort at work. She is passionate about creating a culture of wellness and detail-oriented when addressing each client's needs. She is comprehensive when analyzing each employee's workstation and making individualized ergonomic recommendations. For more information about ergonomics and to request a consultation, please visit


Keedy, N., Keffala, V., Altmaier, E., & Chen, J. (2014) Health Locus of Control and Self-Efficacy Predict Back Pain Rehabilitation Outcomes. Iowa Orthopedic Journal, 34. 

Harkapaa, K., Jarviskoski, A., Mellin, G., Hurri, H., & Luoma, J. (1991) Health locus of control beliefs and psychological distress as predictors for treatment outcome in low-back pain patients: results of a 3-month follow-up of a controlled intervention study. Pain, 46 

Sanders, M.J., & Morse, T. (2005). The Ergonomics of Caring for Children: An Exploratory Study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59. 

Woolf, S. K., Glaser, J.A. (2004). Low Back Pain in Running-based Sports. Southern Medical Journal, 97 (9)

Readers Note: This guest post is for informational purposes only and it is not intended as a substitute for professional wellness and medical advice.Tracking Pixel All opinions expressed here are those of the author, who also provided the images to facilitate this story.