Joint Pain and Pregnancy: Causes and Method of Relief

Table of Contents

Joint Pain during Pregnancy

Table of Contents

Pregnancy can cause all types of pains and aches in your body and joint pain is one of them. It may start anywhere during your pregnancy period and occur in certain areas during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. But the good news? There are several effective ways to deal with it.

Joint Pain During Pregnancy: Common Areas of Joint Pain

You might feel pain all over your body during pregnancy, but certain areas experience more joint pain.

  • Hip Joint Pain or Sacroiliac

The sacroiliac joints (SI joints) are located where the ilium meets the sacrum. In plain lingo, these are the joints between your pelvis and your tailbone area. These joints have a pivotal role in supporting and distributing your body weight across the pelvic region.

  • Lower Back Pain or Lumbar

Lower back pain or lumbar gets triggered when the ligaments in the pelvic region get soft.

  • Knee Pain During Pregnancy

Knee pain is experienced by people who are gaining weight during pregnancy.

  • Pelvic Joint Pain or Pubic symphysis

Pelvic joint pain indicates the pain you feel in the front center of the pubic bone, the perineum area, or the lower back. It could lead to a more serious health condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction.

Causes of Joint Pain in Pregnancy

Here are some causes of joint pain during pregnancy:

  • Growing Uterus

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that an expanding uterus during pregnancy can shift the center of gravity of your body and weaken and stretch your abdominal muscles. This shift in the center of gravity can lead to stress and pain in the lower back.

  • Weight Gain

Pregnancy naturally causes you to weight gain as you have another human growing inside you and it won’t happen just in your belly. Once your uterus starts expanding, the other parts of your body also begin to do the same, especially around your hips. This puts more stress on your joints and bones and causes pain when you walk, sit, or sleep.

  • Pregnancy Hormones

Pregnancy hormones are the main cause of joint pain during pregnancy. Relaxin is the hormone released during pregnancy that increases ligamentous laxity, the loosening of the ligaments. This makes some joints feel loose while you perform your daily activities.

For instance, when your body releases relaxation you will experience backache as the hormone widens your pelvis. This leads the SI joints to become more elastic and causes pain there. The pelvic ligaments are softened so that the baby can pass through the birth canal by shifting the pelvic girdle.

  • Posture Problems

While being pregnant, you are carrying extra weight in front of your body. This will change your overall posture and while your baby grows, your body weight will be redistributed around your belly. This can cause uncomfortable pain in your lower back and hips. Apart from this, when you carry your child on your hips, it will lead to posture issues that can cause joint pain in your lower back as well as on your hips.

  • Other Conditions

Pubic symphysis diastasis is a more concerning but rare condition that happens during pregnancy or childbirth. It is the separation of the pubic bone that causes severe pain.

Relieving Joint Pain in Pregnancy

Joint pain can be a very unpleasant experience for pregnant women but the good news is there are several ways to find relief from the pain.

  • Correct Postural Dysfunctions

Correcting all the postural dysfunctions of your body is the first step to relieving joint pain. You also need to make sure that you bring back strength and flexibility around the affected joints. Apart from postural correction, you also need to keep a record of what joints are under stress and develop a focused rehabilitation program for them.

  • Use a Belly Band

Starting in the middle of your 3rd trimester, you could start using a belly band to support your abdomen. A belly band will help relieve round ligament pain and lower back aches. Round ligament pain is related to the pain that occurs when the ligaments of your uterus stretch. This ain’t can be felt around the hip or abdomen area.

  • Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise during pregnancy will ensure that your body muscles are strong and your overall health is fit. The more you engage in movements during your pregnancy, the less joint pain you will have. All kinds of joint pain can be relieved through swimming, prenatal Pilates, and prenatal yoga.

  • Change Your Sleeping Position

If you are consistently experiencing pain in your lower back while pregnant, you need to change your sleeping position and start sleeping on your side. Wedge a pillow between your legs so that all your muscles are relaxed while you sleep.

  • Apply Heat to The Area

Add some Epsom salts to your warm baths to bring in some relief. A heating pad on your lower back, knees, and hips can also bring about wonderful pain relief. However, do not apply direct heat on your baby bump, and also remember to not burn yourself with the heating pad. You could heat up a few flannel bags filled with rice in your microwave and use them on the areas of pain.

  • Get a Prenatal Massage

A gentle prenatal massage can relieve some of those muscle strains and aches caused by joint pain. Seek out a therapist trained in prenatal massage to get yourself going.

  • Consider Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers

Your health care provider will come up with some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines such as acetaminophen for short-term use. These OTC medications must not be nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen or ibuprofen. During your 3rd trimester, such medications could cause adverse effects on your unborn baby. Always consult a medical professional before taking any kinds of OTC medicines or drugs while you are pregnant.

Joint Pain in Pregnancy: Exercise Tips

Design a pregnancy workout with the help of your trainer to relieve pain during pregnancy. These workout routines should vary depending on the trimester you are in. Here’s what we know:

Tips: 1st Trimester

In the first trimester of pregnancy, the production of relaxin is at its peak making those 8 to 12 weeks extremely vulnerable. Some cardio and strengthening exercises could help in avoiding hyperextension of affected joints. You could also prep your body for changes in the posture with deep core strengthening and pelvic floor exercises. This time is also the ideal time to learn to do a pelvic brace:

  • Lie on a flat surface with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart flat on the ground.
  • Place your lower back and pelvis in a neutral position (there will be a tiny space in your lower back when you lie in this position).
  • Now, slightly draw your lower abs in with a Kegel.
  • Inhale while you relax your pelvis and abs.
  • Exhale and repeat the Kegel.

Exercise Tips: 2nd Trimester

Postural changes during pregnancy become more noticeable during your 2nd trimester so building them off in the first trimester is crucial. By the 2nd trimester, your core will be strong (by pelvic bracing) and you can now add some functional movements like rows for the arms and squats for the legs.

Exercise Tips: 3rd Trimester

The focus of 3rd-trimester workout sessions must be on building up the functional strength you achieved in the 2nd-trimester workouts. By the 3rd trimester, the demands on motherhood increase with the increase in the need for fitness and strength specific to postpartum goals.

Later in this trimester, the production of relaxin increases so you need to avoid activities that might cause shearing force at the pubic symphysis joint. You could do this by evenly distributing your body weight across both feet. Do not lean on one leg or cross your legs.

When Should You Talk To The Doctor?

Joint pain during pregnancy is normal but you should get in touch with your health care provider if the pain is

  • Unbearable
  • Disrupts your daily activities
  • Causes other symptoms

Even if the pain is not intense, it is a safe idea to bring it up at your appointment so that they can let you know how to decrease the pain and bring you relief.

The Bottom Line: Joint Pain in Early Pregnancy

Aches and pain will be your best friends during pregnancy. To relive all kinds of aches, you could try heating pads, warm baths, regular gentle exercises, and other pain relieving methods. Do not hesitate to visit a doctor if the pain gets too serious as it could be symptoms of underlying conditions. For the safety of the baby and yourself, you need to keep track of your painful areas and report it to your healthcare provider so that they figure out why it is aching in the first place. Once that’s done, you might be suggested exercises that relieve pain or some mild OTC medications.

Joint Pain During Pregnancy FAQs

1. Why do my joints hurt while pregnant?

The primary causes of joint pain during pregnancy are the hormones progesterone and relaxin. Relaxin increases ligamentous laxity making joints lose their normal stability.

2. How can I relieve joint pain during pregnancy?

Joint pain during pregnancy can be a challenge as you need to engage in some kind of physical activity to keep up your health. Here’s what you can do to relieve joint pain while being pregnant:
  • Try relaxation methods such as deep breathing
  • Have a good night’s sleep
  • Put your feet up to relieve stress from your ankles and joints
  • Rest your joints as much as you can
  • Use cold and/or hot packs on your joints
  • 3. Is joint pain an early pregnancy symptom?

    Yes, joint pain is caused by the hormone relaxin as it relaxes the ligaments in your body preparing for the baby’s arrival.

    4. Does joint pain go away after pregnancy?

    Joint pain during pregnancy can last for weeks to months after you give birth. Rarely, the pain could develop into a lifelong condition. Apart from knee pain during pregnancy, joint pain could include fingers and the back.

    5. What week in pregnancy do hips widen?

    The hips will begin to widen by the 10th or 12th week of pregnancy which is when the hormone relaxin loses the ligaments in the body. The increase in the production of relaxation is to prepare the body for the arrival of the baby. Naturally, women’s hips are wider than men’s to allow childbirth.
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