10 tips for post-natal recoveryRecovering from the birth experience and learning to take care of a newborn can be a very difficult time in a couple’s life.  Most doctors will recommend not to exercise, take baths or have sex in the first six weeks after birth-take any one of those activities away for too long and you will feel stressed!   Feeling dehydrated can also be an issue for women who are breastfeeding.  Whether you had a vaginal or a c-section delivery it is a very significant healing time.  It is important to take care of yourself even in a small way.   Most women feel very fragile and raw after giving birth.  The constant feedings and caring for your newborn which can lead to a lack of sleep can really get you feeling off-center.  You need to help yourself and guide others to help in your recovery.   Here are some ways you can treat yourself when you don’t have a lot of time or energy to make it to the spa.

1.  Your shower-time is a great moment for some “me-time”.  Face massage in the shower can be very clearing and comforting.  Massage around the cheekbones and gently use your finger pads to place pressure on the sinuses. This provides great relief on several levels even for just a few moments.    The heat and steam of course will feel great on your muscles which are very often still tight from labor.

2.  Give yourself a mini facial.  It is recommended to use unscented and even hypo-allergenic products around a newborn.  You should do this while they are napping and wipe off any excess of the product before touching them.  A  gentle exfoliant can be great for replenishing your skin.  Simple baking soda powder is a natural one which can be used once a week.  If you are very sensitive or have any skin issues do not try this.

3.  Moisturize!  Do not forget to use lotion/oil on your feet and body.  Hospital air can really dry you out and so does breastfeeding.  This is also good to help your skin recover from stretch marks.  Most importantly, it feels good and helps your body relax.  Many women suffer from dry heels during and after pregnancy.  In reflexology the heels correspond to our uterus and ovaries.  Again, use unscented and hypo-allergenic products around a newborn.

4.  In case you just don’t have time to moisturize after the shower try Aveeno moisture body wash for dry itchy skin.  It is very effective and is a great time-saver.

5.  Always drink plenty of water.  This seems obvious but it is vitally important to remember to stay hydrated at this time.

6.  Be sure to maintain a healthy and balanced diet that includes plenty of greens to nourish and to replenish your body.

7.  Put the baby in a carrier and slowly and mindfully DANCE around!  This is good for your spirit and the baby will love it.  If they don’t of course stop immediately.  Rhythms and beats are so good for us all as it gets us out of our linear mind and into a more sub-conscious awareness where we can connect with our babies.

8.  Taking a walk with your baby (in a baby carrier) can be very relaxing.  Find a special place you can enjoy with them.  This can become a beautiful ritual to continue together as they grow.  It is a great way to get stimulation for them and exercise for you.  If you are suffering from edema this is a great way to get some much needed circulation to your legs and feet .  It also helps to support attachment parenting practices such as baby-wearing and bonding.

9.  Gentle and safe care of your muscles is very important.  The changes in your body have been quite dramatic and can lead to a lot of tension in the body.  Breastfeeding can be a trying time on our bodies.  Read “Why are my neck and shoulders so tense”  for some helpful tips on how to relieve muscle aches and pains.

10.  Set up a fabulous “nursing station”  Complete with a fan, snacks, water, t.v. remote and an excellent novel.  Yes, you may have time to read during those long late night nursing sessions.  Embrace this time of long feedings and late nights with just you and your baby.  It can be quite magical if you allow it to be and have a “go with the flow” kind of attitude. Read the “Bolsters and pillows for joint support” article for more tips on how to make yourself more comfortable.

Hopefully this will help you feel better and ease the transition into motherhood.  Being a mother is a special job and one that needs a well cared for and nurtured nurturer!

office stretchingIf you work at an office, you’re very likely to be glued to a chair for a good part of the day, which can make your body feel very lethargic and stiff. Here are 10 tips to help address those issues.  A few minutes of simple stretches throughout the day can be very effective in preventing severe health problems down the road. Your co-workers might look at you suspiciously at first while you’re doing this, but soon curiosity will lead to imitation!

1.  Gluteal stretch to help prevent Sciatica: Begin by crossing one foot over the opposite knee.  With a straight back, take a deep breath, exhale and lean forward just to the point where you feel the stretch in your Gluteal.  Pause for a few seconds and then repeat.  Do this 3 times.  Stop if you feel any discomfort anywhere.  Do not lean too far forward, as the point is to feel it in the Gluteal muscle.

2.  Peck stretch against wall to release pectoral muscles.  Place the palm of your hand against a wall. The height should be just above your head. Breath in.  On the exhale, gently turn away from it a few inches.  Do not go too far as this will tork the alignment of your shoulders.  The point is to gently stretch the pectoral muscles.

3.  Neck stretch. While sitting on your chair, sit up straight,  and look up at the ceiling for a few seconds.  This will stretch the muscles at the front of your neck and counteract the shortening of those muscles as a result of constantly looking down at the computer screen.

4.  Shoulder rolls.  Gently and slowly roll your shoulders backwards and forwards.  This will help bring circulation and lubrication to the joint.  This also helps relieve stress.  For more on neck and shoulder pain, read  “Why are my neck and shoulders so tense?

5.  Wrist stretches.  Hold your hands and arms out in front of you, palms down. Now point the fingertips up towards the ceiling.  Hold a few seconds.  Now down towards the floor holding a few seconds.  Repeat several times.  Next move your hands in circles three times in each direction.  The wrist stays still.  Lastly, hold your hands out in front of you and move each finger down separately as though playing a piano in the air (this will stretch the muscles between the fingers). Keeping your wrists in good alignment is very important in avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome. Always use a mouse pad.

6.  Thoracic inlet/outlet stretch.  Hold one arm straight out to the side about shoulder height and bend your wrist so that your fingers point up toward the ceiling.  Now, turn your head in the opposite direction.  Do this for 3-5 seconds.  This is an important area to stretch as tension in this area can cause Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

7.  Foot stretch.  Read ” A sensible exercise to relieve foot pain“.  Try the exercise sitting at your desk.  Always be careful not to strain the knees in any position.

8.  Quadriceps stretch.  While standing,  hold the back of a steady chair with your left hand.   Bend your right knee and hold your ankle with your right hand.  Take a deep breath and stretch your Quadriceps for a few seconds.

9. Calf stretch.  While standing a couple of feet away from the wall, place one foot in front of the other and lean forward with both hands against the wall.  This will stretch your calf muscles.  Switch feet and repeat stretch.

10.  Shoulder stretch Place your hands together in front of your chest in prayer position.  Connect your elbows.  Now gently lift your hands and elbows up about 3 inches.  Hold for 3 seconds and release.  Repeat 3 times.  This simple exercise will help stretch your shoulder cuff muscles.

Remember, as with any exercise or stretch, if anything hurts, you must stop immediately to avoid muscle tear or inflammation.  Stretching should feel good and not painful in any way.  Use these stretches individually or in combination.  It is not necessary to use all of them at the same time.

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People often wonder why they have neck pain and shoulder pain.  Here’s one explanation on neck pain and shoulder pain I hope will be useful.  Imagine an animal in nature that senses danger.  Instantly, its fight or flight response mechanism kicks in.  It will bring its shoulders up to its ears to protect its neck.  Very often the neck is the first place attacked because it is vulnerable and will incapacitate the victim.  We are animals and our systems work in a similar way.  For example, a car horn goes off and we’re startled-we flinch and raise our shoulders.  Notice how our shoulders creep up when we are under stress.  One of the muscles which connects the shoulder to the neck is the Levator Scapula muscle (which translates from Latin into “elevate the scapula”-the triangular bone of the shoulder). This muscle, along with the upper trapezius muscle are activated to elevate the shoulders.  Activated meaning tensed in order to use.  We are activating it constantly, even during lower levels of stress.  Add to that a heavy bag or purse,  a phone clutched between your shoulder and ear, and you will eventually create neck pain and shoulder pain.

So, what do we do?  Knowledge is power.  Now we know a possible reason for our neck pain and shoulder pain.  Acknowledge it and say to yourself,  “take my shoulders out of my ears, it won’t help me with this situation.”  Then take a deep breath-which always helps. This will become second nature the more you do it and you will find that this new position feels so much better than the old one.  The old one will feel strange the more you are conscious of your alignment.  It will become a habit the more often you catch yourself raising your shoulders, but you have to be strict with yourself in the beginning by catching or correcting yourself in the wrong alignment-awareness is key.

Here are a few tips to really support your new improved position and most importantly alleviate a good deal of neck pain and shoulder pain:

Get a good headset for your phone-you know you’ve been meaning to anyway!

Make sure your purse or bag has relatively thick straps that don’t cut into your shoulders which can be a main cause of neck pain and shoulder pain.

Doing “Lat pull downs” at the gym with light weight will help support this new position.  If an exercise causes excess neck pain or shoulder pain-stop and contact your doctor or a licensed physical therapist.

Sleep with the right pillow.  “Right” is one that helps keep you in good alignment as you sleep. The contoured pillows (usually made of memory foam) are excellent.  Experiment with different ones to find the right fit.

Try to mobilize the shoulder gently throughout the day to break up tension.  Light shrugging (elevation) and depression of them will go a long way.  If you feel this causes excess neck pain or shoulder pain consult your doctor.

I hope this makes you feel better and in less pain.  It can help your breathing, headaches, and mood to keep your shoulders and neck less stressed and out of that fight or flight response that daily living can put them in.  We can learn a lot from our animals.  Watch them stretch and decompress themselves-naturally.  Sometimes just watching them can relax you!