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Are you suffering from ‘Dad back’? Here’s how to fix it

Words by Rob Chilton

Searing back pain caused by carrying a baby and tiring toddler playtimes, sent Rob Chilton to get a much-needed massage

Babies may look cute and small but, boy, do they get heavy when you’re holding them in one arm for 10 minutes straight – especially when you’re emptying the dishwasher at the same time.

Carrying my six-month-old daughter (6kg) in a car seat (4kg) from the car into the house and upstairs is like something from the CrossFit Games. By the time I reach the top step, I’m out of breath, my bicep has turned to jelly and my wrist has locked up. Add in a playtime session where I’m ‘Daddy donkey’ on all fours being ridden by my toddler (15kg) and it causes the kind of back pain that has dollar signs flashing in a chiropractor’s eyes.

The one-handed Dad carry

Lie down and prepare to be pummelled

Since becoming a dad in February 2018 my back has been torn to shreds. From top to bottom, along every disc and vertebrae, it aches. In particular, halfway up my back, just to the left of my spine is a patch the size of a coaster that permanently burns and itches – they don’t mention that in the baby manuals.

I take action and try the Muscle Melt massage at 1847 in Springs Souk. Priced at AED 385 for 60 minutes, it “revives over-worked muscles resulting from intense activity.” Does being a donkey count as intense activity? I’d say so.

My therapist is Jasmine from Thailand. She has a sweet demeanour but when she clambers on my back and kneels on me, I feel like a donkey all over again. I resist the urge to make a hee-haw noise and try to ‘enjoy’ the treatment.

The massage is a puzzling combination of agony and pleasure. I wonder if I should call the police and report an assault. Rather than use gentle, sweeping movements with her hands, Jasmine holds her feet, knees and elbows in a single position on my tired muscles to unlock the tension and alleviate the stiffness. After 15 minutes I can’t feel my feet – is this a good thing? She finishes the session with a few minutes of vertebrae-clicking Thai massage twists that wouldn’t look out of place in the MMA octagon.

I get up from the table after the 60 minutes and I feel… wonderful. My back feels lighter, looser and somehow cooler. That night, I come home and pick up my baby while rustling up dinner for my other daughter with my free hand. There’s no stabbing pain, no burning, no itching. I smile at my baby, she giggles. And pukes on my shirt. Oh well, you can’t have it all.

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