While conditions such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow — known as repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) — are often linked to an occupation or some type of sports or recreational activity, Buffalo Grove physical therapist Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, points out that the physical rigors of parenting can often lead to a similar level of pain and discomfort.
The continual lifting, carrying, reaching and twisting so common to parents of babies and toddlers, Dr. Raghunath says, make moms and dads susceptible to RSIs. As the name suggests, such injuries to the muscles, tendons and nerves are due to the repetitive use of specific regions of
the body to perform tasks, oftentimes in sustained awkward positions.
“Parents will hold, carry, rock and lift their babies dozens of times throughout the day, which after some time when performed for prolonged periods can take a toll on the body,” said Dr. Raghunath, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C. “This is the physical wear and tear of being a parent.”
Additionally, poor posture while performing these everyday parenting tasks can eventually compound the problem of RSIs.
“Performing these tasks with sub-optimal body mechanics places the body under unnecessary stress leading to pain, tenderness, tingling and
numbness, commonly observed in repetitive stress injuries,” Dr. Raghunath said.
Dr. Raghunath offers the following for maintaining good posture and avoiding repetitive stress injuries while parenting or babysitting, based on guidelines provided by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA):
Lifting Baby from the Crib: When lifting your baby out of his/her crib, avoid reaching over guard railings and away from your body as this places undue loads to the spine. Instead, first bring the railings to its lowest setting, set your feet shoulder-width apart and bring your baby close to your body. Then, maintaining a slight arch in your back and bracing your spine tight, bend your knees and using power through your
legs, and slowly lift the baby.
Lifting Your Child from the Floor: Stand close to your child with back straight. Step forward with one foot and slowly lower yourself to one knee into a lunge position. Place both arms around your child holding him/her close to your body, and lift with your legs upon ascending up.
Repeat these steps when setting your child down to the floor.
Carrying Your Toddler: Avoid holding your child with one arm and/or balanced on your hip, as this can cause a muscle strain in the low back or sprain to the surrounding ligaments. Instead, hold him/her close to your chest with their legs wrapped around your waist, and balanced in the center of your body.
Lugging Around that Infant Car Seat: Avoid carrying the infant car seat to one side of your body or around your forearm as you would a purse or handbag, as this places stress on the back, shoulder, and arm. Instead, carry the seat by the handle with both hands, elbows bent,
positioned in front of your body with its weight distributed evenly.
According to Dr. Raghunath, strong hip and lumbopelvic musculature can significantly reduce a parent or caretaker’s risk for developing RSIs.
The physical therapy at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation can provide customized core strengthening strategies, along
with assessing and treating your current musculoskeletal ailments.