How do I turn a weak back into a strong back after child birth?

Today’s blog post is a guest post by osteopath Gavin Routledge where he answers the question How do I turn a weak back into a strong back after child birth?

Introduction to lower back pain after child birth

If you’ve given birth, you have probably had some lower back pain. Many lower back pains start during pregnancy. Some start immediately after labour. And unfortunately many persist for years. And they make everyday things difficult. Simple things, like getting the baby out of the cot. Picking up those toys from the floor. Turning over in bed.

In this article, I’m going to answer the burning question, “How do I turn a weak back into a strong back?” Let’s start with some rules..

Blog post image How do I turn a weak back into a strong back after child birth?

Rule 1: Stop making it worse

The first thing is to stop making your back pain worse. Pain is a biological alarm system. You have to find ways of not ringing the bell. The more you ring the bell, the more sensitive the system can become. Then you end up with pains coming on for no obvious reason.

Also, if you’re doing things that bring on your pain, the chances are that you’re preventing healing from taking place.

Whatever is wrong with your lower back, it needs to right itself. That’s hard if you keep aggravating it. In fact it may be impossible. Think about it. If you had a headache, but you kept banging your head against the wall, would it get better?

Rule 2: Don’t be inactive

Physical inactivity is one of the strongest causes of lower back pain. I know it might hurt to do some things. But doing nothing is always a bad plan. When you are physically inactive your brain actually loses connections between different nerve cells. So, for instance, if you don’t use the muscles around your middle, the nerves that control them lose connection with one another. Your muscles are never going to recover then, are they? So doing something is always better than doing nothing. But don’t forget the 1st rule – stop making it worse.

How do you combine Rules 1 & 2 to turn a weak back into a strong back? Follow Rule 3….

Rule 3: Use it, but don’t abuse it

Rules 1 and 2 are most easily remembered by combining them into my Golden Rule – Use it, But Don’t Abuse it.

This simply is a combination of rules 1 & 2. But hopefully it’s more memorable. Because having memorable rules helps a lot. I know you’re busy. What responsible parent isn’t busy? There’s a lot to fit into life isn’t there? And it all seems to matter so much. But so do you. So does your back. Which brings me to Rule 4.

Rule 4: Prioritise yourself

Your back is not going to get better on its own. And any improvement you get from manual therapy, acupuncture, medication, injections, and even surgery (best avoided if at all possible) is not enough to prevent a relapse. You – and only you – can turn a weak back into a strong back.

But you have to make time for it. I often tell stories of people who have experienced substantial injuries, and gone on to make remarkable recoveries. What do they all have in common? Total focus on a SMART goal. Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic/Relevant. Timely.

To turn a weak back into a strong back, you have to do the work. This is the hardest bit, isn’t it. Putting yourself first just doesn’t seem possible. For many parents it also doesn’t seem right. But – take it from me – if your back “goes”, you are not going to be much use to your children. Having had (not born) 5 children, I know that they need you to be at your best. It’s like the guidance on the aeroplane in an emergency… Put your own oxygen mask on first.

You do not want your back to be the weakest link in the family chain. And it can be. There are so many future occasions that could be ruined by your back going into spasm. Or just being a background ache. Lower back pain is the single biggest cause of disability in the world. It won’t kill you, but it will have an enormous impact on your quality of life across your lifetime. It’s worth investing time in now. Don’t leave it. Don’t become someone who can’t lose weight because your back is too weak to exercise. Who can’t play with the kids. Who can’t sit for more than 15 minutes. Who can’t bend over in the morning until you’ve been up for an hour.

Rule 5: Firm up your Strategy before focusing on Tactics

You can waste a lot of time googling “exercises for back pain”. If you want exercises tailored specifically to your lower back pain / sciatica, I’ll give you them – for free. Just use the lower back pain and sciatica chatbot I programmed on our website. It will take you through a series of questions. At the end it’ll give you a label for your back problem, and send you an ebook with all the exercises that are relevant to your problem. No more guesswork.

Below are just 2 tactics. You’ll find many more in through the chatbot and ebook it will provide you with. And a lot more if you sign up to one of my webinars, online courses, or online consultations.

CONCLUSION on How do I turn a weak back into a strong back?

Turn a weak back into a strong back: Tactics 1-3

There are a whole load more tactics, but these will give you a starting point. As mentioned above, you can get a lot more guidance from the Active X Backs chatbot.

Tactic 1:

Sniff Sharply and Hold it
This is relevant for most people with persistent/recurring lower back pain. Do it if just before you’re about to do something that you know can trigger your pain. Whether it’s getting out of a chair, turning over in bed, lifting the baby.. Anything that sometimes gives you a twinge of pain. Just before you do that thing, sniff in sharply. Hold the contraction that happens in your tummy muscles. Maintain that tension while you do the activity. That will help to stabilise your lower back.

Tactic 2:

Daily “preventer exercises” tailored to you Remember Rule 4. You must prioritise this. It’s just 10 minutes. Do them while watching the telly if you must. Or turn the telly off earlier. Do them with your partner. Do them with your toddler. Just do them.

These exercises are not for relief. They are to make your front, back and side muscles stronger. If you don’t do them, you will never make a long-term, sustainable improvement. Never (unless you’re just plain lucky).

Tactic 3:

Don’t worry about your back.
Worrying increases your state of alarm. Increasing your state of alarm will increase your levels of pain. When you think about your back, try to reframe how you feel. Be more positive. Pleeease don’t call it your “dodgy back”, “weak back”, or some similar negative phrase. Unless you have sustained a very large trauma to your back, it’s going to be fine. Trust me. Just get a good plan and stick to it. Let your body do the rest.
When you put a negative focus on a body part, you will increase the pain.

So, to summarise, stick to the rules…

Use it or Lose it, But Don’t Abuse it
Prioritise yourself
Strategy before tactics
Sniff sharply
Daily preventer exercises
Don’t worry about your back

About Gavin Routledge

Gavin Routledge has a Masters Degree in Pain Management from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, and has been a practising osteopath for nearly 30 years. He’s written two books on lower back pain, and has developed an equation for pain, grounded in science. Having had 7 years of lower back pain and sciatica in his 20s, he eventually started taking his own advice. It worked. So he wrote his first book to help others. 20 years later, in 2017 – after completing his Masters Degree – he felt he needed to write another.

He now provides webinars and online courses to support others seeking relief AND prevention of lower back pain and sciatica.

Link to author website:

Active X Backs - An Effective Long-Term Solution to Lower Back Pain author


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