One of the most common discomforts faced during pregnancy is shoulder pains. In fact, over 40% of pregnant women experience shoulder pains in pregnancy. So when you feel some pulling sensations around your shoulders that keep you awake at night, or maybe the pain radiates to your neck region, you may wonder why it happens. Well, this article will expose you to all you need to know about shoulder pains during pregnancy.
What causes shoulder pain in pregnancy?
There are many reasons why you may feel shoulder pains in pregnancy. But for most women, it is commonly felt as a painful pulling sensation after a change in sleep posture. This pain is mainly due to muscle contraction and hormonal effects.
Without much ado, here are the common causes of shoulder pain during pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called “relaxin” which relaxes the muscles and ligaments in the body in preparation for delivery. The relaxed ligaments include those found in the hips, knees, neck, and shoulders.
So when you change your sleep position, you’re most likely going to experience shoulder pains as a response to these stretches.
Digestive disorders and gallstones
When you have digestive disorders and gallstones during pregnancy, it can trigger pains in your shoulders. In this case, you will feel sharp and sudden soreness in your upper abdomen and this radiates towards your back to your right shoulder.
More so, when you have calcium or cholesterol deposit in your gallbladder or its bile ducts, it will provoke pains in the upper right side of your abdomen. But in some cases, you may feel pains behind your right shoulder instead.
Also, when you notice pains in your abdomen after eating spicy foods, and it is accompanied by nausea and vomiting, it could be caused by gallstones. But many people would not consider visiting a gastroenterologist for shoulder pain.
Other possible causes of pain in the upper back and right shoulder may include; stomach ulcer, esophagus or pancreatic disorders, constipation, flatulence, and bloating.
If you gain weight rapidly in pregnancy, especially during the second trimester, it can put pressure on your shoulder muscles and upper back, which may result in pains.
More serious causes of shoulder pains in pregnancy include:
Tubal or ectopic pregnancy: A case where the embryo implantation occurs in another area of the body instead of the intra-uterine region. This condition can cause serious shoulder pains, and it requires urgent medical intervention.
Preeclampsia: This is a condition that is marked by a high protein level in the urine and high blood pressure. It sometimes has silent signs which make it particularly dangerous. But in some cases, it may show warning signs in the form of shoulder pains. This condition needs serious medical attention.
Symptoms that accompany shoulder pain in pregnancy
Some common symptoms that accompany shoulder pain during pregnancy include:
- A sharp pain in the cervical area that increases as the day goes by. It is often combined with pain in the base of the skull and a burning feeling in the eye, which brings tension and fatigue.
- Shoulder pains in the first trimester may be accompanied by low blood pressure, migraine, fainting, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms require immediate attention.
Treatment measures of shoulder pain in pregnancy
You may be tempted to use some painkillers to treat shoulder pains in pregnancy, but this can be harmful when taken without a doctor’s advice. Hence, you can follow some simple pain-relieving measures, including:
- Place an icepack around the site where you feel pains.
- Use anti-inflammatory creams and sprays
- Try physical self-therapy like stretching exercises, yoga, acupuncture, and a good sleeping position.
- Take enough rest to ease the shoulder pain and tension stress
- Report every gastric issue before it triggers shoulder pain
- Get or give yourself a massage, especially around your shoulder before going to bed
- Limit any physically strenuous activity that might increase shoulder pain during the third trimester
How to prevent shoulder pain
Remember during pregnancy, your body goes through some changes to accommodate your growing baby. So you should also make some healthy changes in your lifestyle to prevent shoulder pains.
Here are some preventive measures to prevent shoulder pains in pregnancy:
- Sleep adequately to prevent tension build-up around your shoulders
- Avoid bad posture while standing, sleeping, walking and sitting
- Eat well and avoid foods that trigger gastric issues
- Quit smoking during pregnancy
- Get pregnancy pillows that support the cervical spine and legs for reduced strain on the shoulders.
- Eat less oily and spicy foods to help prevent shoulder pains associated with gallstones and gastric problems.
- Avoid people and environments that trigger stress.
- Eat healthy snacks instead of junk foods in between meals.
- Try to take a day off to relax.
- Visit a chiropractor or acupuncture therapist to get the best care to relieve shoulder pains.
- Get a sleeping mask, buy a new mattress, and use noise-cancellation headphones.
When should you consult a doctor?
You should seek quick medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Pain lasting more than 15 days
- Inability to move the shoulder
- High fever
- Severe right shoulder pain
- Pain with skin discoloration and swelling in the affected area
- Upper right abdomen pain
- Severe headache
- Pressure on the rectum
- High blood pressure
Also, if you feel abdominal pain that radiates to the shoulder and back area, ensure you consult your doctor for proper medical intervention.
You may experience shoulder pain in pregnancy due to hormonal changes, weight gain, digestive disorder or gallstones. This can be accompanied by symptoms like weakness, nausea, vomiting, vaginal bleeding, and low blood pressure. You can try the preventive measures highlighted above, but it is advisable to take any form of pain seriously during pregnancy. Ensure you check with your doctor for proper diagnosis and the best treatment measure to improve your condition.