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Being a parent can be the most wonderful thing in the world, but it can also wreak havoc on your back.

Whether carrying kids or sitting at a desk for hours on end, there are ways to help avoid injury.

“When you’re picking up your child, you want to bend your legs, use your legs,” Sara Baird, a physician with Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, said. “Hold your child with both arms when possible.”

Baird said the child-on-the-hip carry is convenient, but she tried to carry her own children directly in front of her whenever possible. She also recommends keeping a step stool in frequently used places at home so older children can have more independence while parents avoid some of the heavy lifting.

Even breastfeeding can be hard on the back.

“When nursing, try to sit up straight and bring your baby to your breast,” Baird said.

Using a high-back chair with lumbar support, as well as a pillow to support your baby and your arms can also help.

Though keeping a child in a car seat can be a lifesaver if baby is asleep, that arm-through-the-handle carry is bad form.

“Try to use a shopping cart to minimize carry time or a stroller that the seat snaps into,” Baird said.

For all lifting, Baird said parents should follow their doctor’s advice – that’s especially true for moms still recovering from birth.

But it isn’t just daily lifting that can cause problems. Sitting at a desk for hours each day can damage overall health and cause outright injuries.

“Look into whether your office offers an ergonomic evaluation,” Baird said.

She also recommends using a chair with good lumbar support, standing when possible, positioning your keyboard correctly and taking frequent breaks throughout the day.

Stay ahead of injuries as much as possible by keeping your core strong. Baird recommends bridges, clamshells, planks, yoga and Pilates. If you do get injured, consult your doctor for treatment. That might include anti-inflammatory medications and other options. Baird said you should avoid lifting when injured, but don’t assume bedrest is the answer to a pain in the back.

“It has not been shown to improve healing after a lumbar strain,” she said. “You want to take caution but don’t lay around.”

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