How Can I Relieve My Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy?

Is pelvic pain ruining your pregnancy?

Would you like some tips on how to alleviate the pain?

Pregnancy can be one of the most joyous occasions in your life. But while there is great excitement about eventually meeting your new baby and becoming a mother, it can also be physically exhausting, especially in the third trimester and the later stages of your pregnancy.

Plus (although most are minor), very few women are lucky enough to enjoy pregnancy with zero side effects.

In most cases, there is usually some heartburn and indigestion, lower back, foot ankle and knee pain, and digestive symptoms, but the most common complaint amongst pregnant women is pelvic pain.

Studies show that around 70% of women suffer pelvic pain at some stage of their pregnancy. 

During pregnancy, pelvic pain symptoms include pain in the pelvic region, hips, and lower back area.

There may be other symptoms, including groin pain, clicking noises around the hips and pelvis, and the pain may worsen when you climb the stairs, roll over in bed, walk long distances or on uneven surfaces and getting out of the car.

We also refer to this type of pain as Pelvic Girdle Pain or PGP – a catch-all term that describes pain in the front of the pelvis as well as pain that radiates down into the hips and legs, buttocks, and SI (sacroiliac) joints.

One type of pelvic pain can be referred to as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), although we don’t tend to use that term anymore.

But most importantly, it can be super painful and interfere with all aspects of your life and enjoyment of your pregnancy.

But don’t worry. Although it’s normal to worry in pregnancy, pelvic girdle pain doesn’t affect your growing baby – they sleep soundly right through it.

You’re the only one who can feel the pain and discomfort.

So, what’s going on inside your body to cause so much pain?

To help you make sense of PGP and pelvic pain during pregnancy, in this blog, we examine the causes and the symptoms and explore what you can do to fix them. 

More Pregnancy Blogs From Focus Osteopathy
Pregnancy: Dealing With Back Pain When Sleeping
How To Strengthen The Pelvic Floor
How does our modern lifestyle affect posture?

What Causes Pelvic Pain In Early Pregnancy?

If you’re still in the first trimester, it might be a surprise to have pelvic pain so soon into your pregnancy.

But rather than being anything to do with the baby, pelvic pain in early pregnancy is more likely due to the release of hormones.

Specifically, when you become pregnant, your body produces Relaxin (a hormone).

Relaxin helps the ligaments and tendons in your pelvic region become more flexible to accommodate your baby and growing womb and later enable childbirth.

But apart from the role played by Relaxin in softening/stretching the ligaments, your expanding baby bump is also responsible for altering the weight distribution in your body, especially when moving.

The shift in weight distribution can lead to pain in the pelvis and hips because your body continues to produce Relaxin throughout your pregnancy.

So, as your pregnancy progresses and the production of Relaxin increases, so does the likelihood of your pelvic pain intensifying. 

What Causes Pelvic Pain In The Later Stages Of Pregnancy?

Pelvic pain in the later stages of pregnancy in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, from 12 weeks onwards, can also be due to the continued production and release of the hormone Relaxin.

Production of this hormone continues throughout pregnancy and intensifies just before childbirth – further loosening the tendons and ligaments in preparation for your baby’s arrival.

But apart from the role played by Relaxin in weakening/stretching the ligaments, your expanding baby bump is also responsible for altering the weight distribution in your body, especially when moving.

In addition, your growing baby can also impact your posture and change how you walk – all of which contribute to pelvic pain. 

Once the process of the baby dropping in preparation for labor happens (the baby automatically shifts further down into the pelvis) around 2-4 weeks before delivery, pelvic pain can intensify. Why? 

The baby dropping into the pelvis, results in additional stress, widening and pressure on your muscles, joints, and bones in the pelvic area and lower back. 

Because when lightning occurs, your baby’s head causes stress and pressure on your muscles, joints, and bones in the pelvic area and lower back.

However, although it can be uncomfortable, the good news is that this symptom signifies that you won’t have to wait too much longer to meet your new baby. 

How To Alleviate Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy

As with most things in pregnancy – like headaches and other minor aches and pains, it is best to avoid pain medication wherever possible to prevent any harm to your developing baby.

But there are many ways to alleviate pelvic pain in pregnancy without reaching for pain pills. However, you should always consult your doctor before embarking on any new course of treatment. 

Physical therapy is the most effective way to treat pelvic pain during pregnancy. But here are some of the other ways you can alleviate the discomfort:

  • Pregnancy-support aids

Several pregnancy-support aids that are available to buy online can help support your growing bump and make your pregnancy more comfortable.

These include compression pantyhose and belly bands. Compression pantyhose help by compressing your legs and feet – which tend to swell during pregnancy.

They also help to lift and offer support to your belly during different stages of pregnancy – to take the pressure off your pelvic area, lower back, and hips.

Pregnancy “Belly bands” serve a similar purpose and raise your bump while providing support to the pelvic and lower back areas, both of which are highly susceptible to pregnancy-related pain. 

  • Prenatal massage

Having a professional prenatal massage can help reduce pelvic pain by relieving stress and tension, improving blood circulation, and reviving the ligaments and muscles that work so hard during pregnancy.

When your circulation improves after a massage, you will feel less discomfort and hopefully get a better night’s sleep.

This added benefit is especially helpful because good quality sleep reduces pain levels. First, however, make sure you choose a qualified and experienced prenatal massage therapist with extensive experience in maternal care.

Their knowledge of how much pressure should or should not be applied – and what massage oils and essential oils are safe to use during pregnancy – ensures the safety of you and your unborn child.  

  • Stretching exercises 

If your doctor has said it’s ok for you to exercise (within certain prenatal limits, of course), then specific stretching movements and exercises can be hugely beneficial to treating and preventing pelvic pain during pregnancy.

Stretching can help to relieve some of the discomfort and pain in the early stages of your pregnancy.

However, before embarking on an at-home stretching routine, we recommend you consult with a Physical Therapist to learn specific safe movements for the hips, pelvic area, back, and stomach.

For example, pelvic tilt exercises can reduce lower back and pelvic pain by helping to improve your posture and strengthening your muscles and ligaments.

You may also want to try a Prenatal Pilates or yoga class with a range of low-impact moves that can help you treat and prevent pelvic pain.

Low-impact exercise can also improve your sleep. It may also contribute to easier labor and delivery and help you recover faster after the birth. 

How Physical Therapy Treats Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy 

When pelvic girdle pain affects your ability to move around without pain, it can detract from the enjoyment of carrying your baby and being pregnant.

The pain can also keep you awake at night, which isn’t healthy for you or your baby.

So, it’s a good idea to seek treatment for the pain rather than just endure it, so you can get back to enjoying your pregnancy and give your baby the best start possible.

We evaluate your symptoms, find the root cause and work with you to reduce the pain and prevent it from reoccurring.

The treatment for pelvic pain during pregnancy is specific to your set of symptoms and the stage you’re at in your pregnancy.

But is likely to include a combination of manual joint and muscle manipulation and therapeutic stretching and strengthening exercises – all of which are 100% safe during pregnancy. 

After treatment, you can look forward to finally being able to “glow” through the rest of your pregnancy and enjoy every moment of this precious time in your life.  

Not sure whether Physical Therapy is right for you at this stage of your pregnancy?

Why not book a free consultation with one of our women’s health specialists?

We offer all patients a free, no-obligation, 30-minute consultation to discuss their PGP and pelvic pain during pregnancy issues and get immediate advice from a trained physical therapist, either over the telephone or in the clinic.

Book yours now. 

Pregnancy: Dealing With Back Pain When Sleeping

Have you got back pain keeping you awake at night? Pain in your lower back preventing you from enjoying the blossom of your pregnancy? 

This is a very common problem. You are not alone, so don’t panic. 

For the majority of women in pregnancy, back pain etches inwards during the mid-point of pregnancy (between the five-month and seven-month mark). That’s not just a guess on our part, though. There is a reason why back pain occurs at this time. 

Throughout these months, the uterus changes position from the pelvic area to the abdomen; this increases the stress upon both the mid and lower back. 

Consequently, your spine’s normal position is altered courtesy of the changes your ‘bump’ goes through. As the bump pushes up into your belly, the rising pressure affects the vertebrae in your back. 

More Pregnancy Blogs From Focus Osteopathy
How To Strengthen The Pelvic Floor
Why Does My Hip Pain Linger After Pregnancy?
How Pregnancy Can Cause Knee Pain And Back Pain

As this pressure pushes against the components of your spine, pain begins to build. Sadly, this pain doesn’t disappear when you try to gain some sleep. If the pain builds up enough, you’ll be locked in a constant battle for relief until the morning sun summons birdsong. 

That’s not what you want to hear. I get it. But there is hope, so don’t panic! 

Do you want some good news? There are many ways to relieve (or even prevent) pain. And not only that, but you can also build your back muscles up to be stronger – even while pregnant! 

So, it’s official. You don’t have to endure back pain and subsequent sleepless nights during your pregnancy. There is no need to endure the discomfort, face the sleep-deprived day, or grimace through until the day arrives and you give birth. 

But how do you go about building your back strength, and vanquishing back pain for a restful sleep? 

You need an Osteopath! And that’s where we can help. 

We can help you get good restful sleep, and help you avoid walking around holding your back and staying home, laid up in front of the television for the next few months. 

By working with us, you’ll thrive! You’ll be able to continue exercising where appropriate, get out and about, and enjoy the precious time carrying your baby. But without the crushing fatigue that comes with not sleeping properly. 

Let’s dig a bit deeper into how we can help. 

Treat Pregnancy Back Pain By Visiting An Osteopath 

Perhaps the most effective way to deal with back pain (especially during the early stages of pregnancy) is Osteopathic treatment. At Focus Osteopathy, we help Mums-to-be with correct posture and other elements that contribute to back pain. 

We also take time to teach pregnant mothers a range of exercises that they can undertake and practice at home, in order to prevent pregnancy-related back pain. 

We also practise techniques largely unique to osteopathic treatments. These treatments manipulate your joints and muscles to alleviate the pressure and stress that’s building up against your spinal column and subsequent nerves; the leading cause of pregnancy back pain and sleepless nights. 

So what could these manipulations mean? It’s nothing to worry about. We aren’t going to reshape your body with painful or forceful actions. Instead, we’ll guide you on how to sit properly, lie back correctly, sleep soundly, and walk while pregnant without applying any of that negative pressure on your back. 

Osteopaths at Focus Osteopathy will also walk you through a range of gentle stretching movements that will build strength and make your joints more supple. 

You can book a session with us through this link. However, is there anything you can do in the meantime to help with back pain?

Of course there is. So let’s take a look at a few ‘home remedies’. Even if the first one sounds impossible.

Get A Good Night’s Sleep

Sounds pretty good right now, doesn’t it? However, we remain aware that getting a good night’s sleep while pregnant can be incredibly challenging. 

One of the main reasons for this comes from the extra weight that your body has to deal with. This weight, which is more pronounced when you sleep on your side, places itself on your spinal cord and creates serious discomfort. 

You can help yourself by grabbing hold of a thick towel and placing it, folded lengthwise, at a right angle to your waist. 

This extra support helps to relieve the strain on your back and pelvic region. You can also use a pillow and place it between your knees when lying on your side; again reducing the pressure on your back. 

Furthermore, when pregnant, you should avoid sleeping on your back, because it is not helpful for you or your baby. 

Why? In the latter stages of your pregnancy (the third trimester), sleeping on your back can reduce your baby’s vital blood and oxygen flow. To give your unborn child the best chance, you want to keep this blood and oxygen flow as healthy as possible. 

So, instead of sleeping on your back, get yourself a firm support mattress and utilize pillows as props to sleep on either your right or left side. 

You can also try to introduce a ‘sleep routine’ that works for you. For example, don’t eat in the two-hour run-up to bedtime. This helps to prevent digestive discomfort that might otherwise keep you awake. 

Pilates & Yoga 

Contrary to belief, yoga and pilates are not solely for the rich and famous. You are not ‘excluded’ from these activities just because your Instagram account hasn’t become festooned with millions of followers. 

Rather, yoga and pilates have a legion of ardent followers from all spheres of life, and these followers practice for good reason, too. It’s a great form of exercise for staying fit and healthy throughout pregnancy. 

Not to mention how pilates and yoga can prepare your body for childbirth, and prevent pregnancy-related aches and pains. 

We would recommend what is known as ‘Prenatal Yoga’. This form of yoga helps the muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves that help form your posture. Besides strengthening your body, prenatal yoga also benefits your mental health by relieving stress and engaging with deep breathing techniques that relax the body. 

All of this should certainly help in gaining a peaceful sleep. It also calms the nervous system, and helps to reduce some of the natural anxieties that sometimes accompany pregnancy. 

Like prenatal yoga, prenatal pilates is a gentle and pregnancy-friendly form of exercise. Using a sequence of movements to improve balance and then strengthen the ‘core’ muscles, Pilates is more regimented when compared to free-flowing yoga. 

However, in being more regimented, pilates remains (arguably) a more effective method for strengthening and elongating muscles and preventing pregnancy back pain. 

Wear A Maternity Belt

Ever heard of a maternity belt? These have proven effective in relieving pain for pregnant women. Especially those going through the final stages of pregnancy and feeling too tired and worn out to undertake a yoga or pilates session. 

The maternity belt remains one of the easiest ways to relieve and support your back when pregnant, and supports your belly while standing, going about your daily activities, walking, and generally moving around. 

Wearing a maternity belt helps compensate for weaker core muscles, too. 

Opt For Proper Footwear 

We get it. It’s tempting to try and stay up-to-date with fashions, or try to outdo the neighbours, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Your body is going through a range of changes, and high-heeled shoes are not going to help with your back pain. 

These cat-walk-inspired shoes will increase the curvature of your spine and place extra pressure on your back. Pain will be inbound before you’ve taken more than a few steps. 

Also, as you have to live with increasing pregnancy weight, unsensible shoes can increase your chances of a fall, which can risk your baby. 

However, we also don’t recommend wearing entirely flat shoes, either. Flat shoes provide very little support in the arch area of the foot, and causes an uneven distribution of body weight. 

Once again, you guessed it, this uneven distribution can strain the lower back. Not to mention related ankle and foot pain. 

So, what do you look for exactly? Look for footwear with built-in stability for the arch of your foot, and also your ankle. Heels need to be not too high, but also not too flat. 

Trying shoes on and feeling pressure in your back as you try to walk? Put them back. They are not the best shoes for you! 

It’s Time To Speak With Us 

If you have back pain during pregnancy, we recommend you book an appointment with us. We can help you find and treat the root cause of your back pain, and prevent problems further down the line in your pregnancy. 

We don’t just generalize your condition. We take the time to get to know you, and ensure that your treatment is bespoke to your situation. After all, what works for some people may not work for you.

You can contact us through our contact page.

Don’t suffer in silence. It’s time to get you back to health! 

Why Does My Hip Pain Linger After Pregnancy

Are you still struggling with hip pain after delivering your baby weeks, months, or decades ago?

Well, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Postpartum joint pain is widespread among women after childbirth.

In pregnancy, reports suggest that up to 25% of women experience serious pain– with 8% reporting severe disability. But many women suffer from disabling hip and joint pain long after giving birth to their babies.

These post-delivery joint pains may be pains that start during your pregnancy or new pains that begin during or shortly after the birth. The pains also manifest in several different ways.

From hip pain and pelvic girdle pain caused by the pregnancy and/or the delivery. Pain in the finger joints due to increased fluid retention or knee pain that occurs because your knees support the additional weight of your baby.
But the most common cause of pre and postpartum joint pain is hip pain, which develops during the pregnancy and can continue for weeks or months after the delivery.

Postpartum hip pain can become chronic and long-lasting in rare cases (without proper treatment). 

All these complaints are likely due to inflammation and physical changes during pregnancy, childbirth and post-partum. They can also occur due to hormonal changes. 

More Blogs From Focus Osteopathy
How Pregnancy Can Cause Knee And Back Pain
When your shoulder is really a pain in the neck…
How does our modern lifestyle affect posture?

What Are The Symptoms Of Hip Pain After Pregnancy?

What Are The Symptoms Of Hip Pain After Pregnancy?

Medically, we refer to pain around the area that we call our “hips” – as Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) because it usually affects the pelvic joints.

Pain patterns tend to differ between women, but the main symptoms of PGP are:

  • Your hips feel “loose” – sometimes, this might feel like all the muscles around the hips are stiff and tight, but your pelvis feels unstable. 
  • Intense pain in the hips, deep inside your pubic region, your legs, lower back, or butt. 
  • A loud popping sound when you move your hips
  • Pain that radiates over the lower back
  • Pain that worsens with activity 

Your doctor may prescribe pain medication to deal with the pain. Still, longer-term physical therapy, specifically in the form of osteopathy and therapeutic exercise, is recommended to treat the root cause, strengthen the weakened pelvic floor muscles, and lessen the pain – without resorting to pain pills

What Causes Hip Pain After Pregnancy?

What Causes Hip Pain After Pregnancy?

There isn’t one main reason why hip or pelvic girdle pain occurs during and after pregnancy.

Still, in most cases, the cause usually relates to how pregnancy results in changes to the body’s posture, ligaments, muscles and support structures.

Why? Because the hormones our bodies release during pregnancy stretch specific ligaments and tendons, which can cause pelvic girdle pain and pain in the hips.

The pelvic girdle plays a pivotal role in connecting your upper and lower body. Hence, there is pressure and stress on the hips and pelvic girdle every time you move.

In addition, numerous muscles are running through or connecting to the hips and pelvic girdle.

These include the psoas, the hamstrings, the glutes, and your all-important pelvic floor muscles.

As a result, many things can go wrong and cause pain in the “hip” area – especially when everything is extra stretchy and flexible. 

Interestingly, hormones can also affect our pain regulation, so your perception of the intensity of the pain may be greater than before you got pregnant. 

But what causes the pain?

Well, the precise cause of PGP and hip pain after pregnancy is different for everyone, so you need to book in for a complete evaluation.

But for information purposes, here are causes of “hip” pain that may linger after pregnancy:

  • Piriformis syndrome: This painful syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle close to the buttocks gets spasms, leading to pain.
    In some cases, piriformis syndrome can also irritate the sciatic nerve and cause it to flare up, leading to sciatica – during and after pregnancy.
    Sciatica causes nerve pain in the leg, hip, and lower back. However, with physical therapy, most women can successfully manage the symptoms of piriformis syndrome and/or sciatica and relieve the pain without pain pills. 
  • Labral tears: This issue is common during labour and childbirth – when the labrum (cartilage) inside the hip socket suffers damage and tears.
    But if this were the cause of your hip pain, you would probably know about it at the time because the pain can be excruciating and make walking difficult.
    However, doctors can miss small tears, so we recommend you get an evaluation of your hips to check whether this is the case for you. 
  • Arthritis: Certainly, with osteoarthritis, pregnancy is unlikely to be the cause of arthritis, but unfortunately, in some cases, pregnancy is the catalyst for a flare-up of arthritic symptoms that alert you and your doctor to this underlying medical condition.
    But osteoarthritis is more common in older postmenopausal women, so this is unlikely to be the case for you.
    However, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, some women develop this condition after giving birth because the immune system begins to attack joint tissues. But this is rare.
    Both types of arthritis are chronic, lifelong conditions. Still, osteopathy and physical therapy can reduce the intensity of the symptoms and prevent further progression. 
  • Pelvic bone problems: As your baby moves through the birth canal, they can bruise or fracture your pelvic bones and cause pain that lingers after pregnancy.
    Especially if labour is fast, pain from bruising will subside in most cases, but you may need an X-ray to check for fractures if it continues.  
  • Symphysis pubis dysfunction refers to the pain that occurs when your left and right pelvic bones move and separate to accommodate your growing baby.
    This type of pain is primarily felt in pregnancy. It should go away after pregnancy, but you may feel additional pain. At the same time, your bones move back to their pre-pregnancy position. 
  • Hyperthyroidism: In most cases, hyperthyroidism is unlikely to be the cause of your hip pain, but due to the increased demand for your thyroid gland, many women do suffer from hyperthyroidism when pregnant.
    This condition occurs when the thyroid gland secretes excessive hormones. In many cases, this secretion is due to an underlying condition called Grave’s Disease.
    But for the one in four women that develop this condition for the first time during pregnancy, the symptoms can get more severe after delivery. In addition, during and after pregnancy, women who suffer from hyperthyroidism during and after pregnancy can sometimes develop thyrotoxic myopathy.
    This disorder can impact the pelvic girdle leading to pain in the area. But the good news is that your doctor can run tests to determine whether you have this condition.
    They can also prescribe antithyroid medicines to help you maintain normal thyroid levels and alleviate joint pain symptoms. 

How To Reduce Hip Pain After Pregnancy 

How To Reduce Hip Pain After Pregnancy 

There are many causes of hip and joint pain after giving birth. While some are common and not too serious, others might pose health issues and require treatment.

If your joint pain continues more than a month after the pregnancy or the pain increases, it is essential to consult a doctor, osteopath, or physical therapist. 

At Focus Osteopathy, we are highly experienced in pregnancy and postnatal pain and recovery and we can support you throughout your pregnancy journey.

Pregnancy can take a toll on your body, especially if you’re ill-prepared and don’t have osteopathy or physical therapy to prepare for the birth.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. But you can recover much faster when you know the root cause of your pain and have a natural recovery plan tailored to your specific set of symptoms.

We get to the core of your postpartum pain and help you feel better quickly. Book your free consultation now. 

If your hip pain after pregnancy is mild, there are some ways you can treat the pain at home. For example, if you have pain in your lower back, you can try alternating hot/cold compressed to relieve the pain.

However, we know that hip pain can often result from poor posture or an incorrect gait (walking pattern) that places stress on your hip joints and leads to pain, which we can help you with at the clinic.

But here are a few ways you can prevent hip pain at home:

  • Do stretching exercises (preferable exercises provided by us)
  • Eat well and increase your intake of lean protein, fresh vegetables, and fruit
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
  • Do daily exercise to strengthen weak muscles (preferable exercises provided by us: walking, Pilates, Yoga – or resistance training if you’re cleared to)
  • Wear the right kind of footwear 
  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • Make sure you get adequate calcium and vitamin D
  • Lead a physically active lifestyle 

However, even if your pain is mild, we would still recommend that you book a consultation to check that nothing is going on that might get worse with time. 

It’s Time To Take Action

It's Time To Take Action

Hip pain is common and you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.

Reaching out is the first part of the recovery process.

If any of this sounds familiar to you don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We know that we can help you set up a personalized recovery plan.

How Pregnancy Can Cause Knee And Back Pain

Are you pregnant now or planning to start a family soon?

If that’s you, your girlfriends have probably already told you in no uncertain terms to expect a variety of different aches and pains during your pregnancy. It’s par for the course, right?

These pregnancy-related pains tend to pop up all over the body. Sometimes, even without an apparent reason. Like pain in your fingers or toes or the back of your head.

But the pain in the knee joints and the lower back are among the most common kinds of pain for most Mums-to-be. That’s why we often see pregnant women stereotypically depicted shuffling along slowly and grimacing with one hand holding their back. But it doesn’t have to be like that. 

Pregnancy-related joint pain can begin at any stage of your pregnancy from as early as 6-8 weeks and in virtually any joint in the body. However, pain in particular parts of the body – like the lower back and pelvis – are the most common as the pregnancy progresses past the 12-week mark and into the second and third trimester.

In our experience, most of the aches and pains during pregnancy are mild. Still, for some women, the pain can be debilitating. For these women, it’s tough. The pain can stop you from sleeping through the night and affect your quality of life and enjoyment of your pregnancy. Sadly, pregnancy and the postnatal period can be the opposite of “blossoming” for many women.  

Does that sound like you? 

The areas we see that are most affected by joint pain during pregnancy are: 

  • Pelvic region: You may feel pain around the pelvic area. Including the hips, tailbone and pubic symphysis region – the centre of the pubic bone, and the lower back. If left untreated, these pains can lead to the development of pelvic girdle pain and or a condition that causes pain at the front of your pelvis, called “Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction or (SPD)”.
  • Lumbar or lower back: Lumbar or lower back pain in pregnancy is triggered by the softening of the pelvic-area ligaments and the change in your spinal posture/curves as the baby grows
  • Sacroiliac joint: The joints known as SI (sacroiliac) joints are the part of your body where the ilium and sacrum connect, the area between the pelvis and the tail bone. The SI joints are crucial in bearing the additional weight of your baby (although tiny in most cases but large in relation to what your body is used to carrying) and its distribution on the pelvis.  
  • Knee joint: Many women experience knee joint pain during pregnancy due to carrying around the additional weight of the baby, which puts continuous strain on the knees. Knee pain is more likely to occur during pregnancy if you have a pre-existing knee condition or old injury. However, it can also happen spontaneously during pregnancy due to hormone-related ligament changes and postural changes that occur during pregnancy.

The cause of joint pain in pregnancy can be due to many different factors such as: 

  • The shift in posture that happens naturally during pregnancy 
  • An increase in weight in the lower parts of the body 
  • The relaxation of ligaments occurs due to the hormone “relaxin.” 

But the most common reasons for pregnancy-related joint pain that we see in the clinic are:

  • Expanding uterus: As your pregnancy progresses, your womb (uterus) begins to grow and develop, too, which causes your centre of gravity to shift, weakening and stretching your abdominal muscles. Because of this centre of gravity change, it puts additional stress on your lower back, which can lead to pain.  
  • Hormones: In pregnant women, the leading cause of softening joint ligaments and associated pain is the release of the pregnancy-related hormones progesterone and relaxin. Our bodies release the latter of the two, relaxin, to allow the pelvic ligaments to become loose and the pelvic girdle to move. This repositioning enables the baby can move more easily through the birth canal. However, this reduces the regular stability of the joints in the hips and pelvis and can make them feel “loose”. As a result, you may also feel lower back pain because of the release of this hormone. It helps the pelvis stretch and the SI joint to become more flexible to accommodate your baby. 
  • Postural issues: Changes in your posture occur naturally in pregnancy because of the extra weight you carry towards the front of the body. This change, along with the baby’s continual growth, causes a redistribute of weight in the belly region, which can trigger pain in the lower back and hips. In addition, even after pregnancy, continually carrying your new baby/toddler on your hip can affect your posture and cause lower back and hip pain. 
  • Increase in weight: Due to the hormonal changes, increased blood volume, growing baby, placenta, reduced activity levels and sometimes the unavoidable “cravings” and eating to beat morning sickness, we don’t just gain weight in the belly area during pregnancy. We also gain it in other areas of the body. Second, to the belly, most of us see weight gain around the hips, which increases stress on the joints and bones around the hips, knees and pelvis and can lead to joint pain.

The less common cause of joint pain during pregnancy:

One of the more severe but uncommon causes of joint pain during pregnancy is “Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction”. It can be intensely painful and cause issues with walking. 

How To Alleviate Joint Pain In Pregnancy

While joint pain in pregnancy can be intense and painful, there are many ways to relieve the pain:

  • Physical therapy/ exercise: Gentle movement and exercises during pregnancy can help strengthen the muscles and help to reduce pain in the joints. However, you must check with your doctor first and consult a professional oestopath specialising in pre and postnatal care. They can provide pain relief with manual treatment and they can guide you through appropriate exercises, especially if you have joint pain. You can also try swimming, prenatal Pilates, and Yoga with your doctor’s approval. 
  • Consider a massage: In some cases, opting for a prenatal massage with a trained prenatal massage therapist can be beneficial in reducing tension in the muscles and reducing aches and joint pain. 
  • Use hot packs on the affected area: Hot packs, heating pads, or a hot water bottle can help relieve pain if you have joint pain. Some women like to talk a warm bath too to help relax the muscles and reduce pain. However, always take care to avoid direct heat on your bump.
  • Belly band: If you’re in the second or third trimester of your pregnancy, you may want to try using a “belly band” for extra support. These bands can help relieve the ligament pain and pain in the lower back region that is so common in pregnancy. In addition, belly bands can alleviate round ligament pain due to the uterus stretching.
  • Improve posture: If you try to improve your posture while sitting, standing, and walking around, it can pay dividends in reducing joint pain during pregnancy by reducing the strain on your joints. This improvement doesn’t just mean sitting on standing up straight. You can also improve your pregnancy posture by building strength and flexibility in the joints and surrounding ligaments and tendons. To do this, you can work with a professional osteopath who will create a customised exercise regimen for your needs. 
  • Modify sleep position: If you suffer from pain in your lower back during pregnancy. Just making simple modifications to your sleeping position can help significantly by reducing the pressure on your joints. For example, instead of lying on your back all the time, switch to sleeping on your side with a pillow tucked between your knees. But only if it works for you. If it’s not comfortable, don’t do it. Instead, find a position that works for you. The most comfortable sleeping position for you will depend on your baby’s position and how much they move during the night. 

At Focus Osteopathy, we support Mums and soon-to-be Mums through every stage of their pre and postnatal journey. Osteopathy can be helpful for back pain and other musculoskeletal pains.

There are no quick fixes, but we can help you find the root cause of your pain and work with you to recover. We empower you to stay fit, have a healthy pregnancy, and prepare for and recover well after birth.

As well as finding the cause of your pain, we can also help you sit, sleep, and walk more comfortably.

If you have pregnancy-related knee pain, back pain, or any other joint pain, now. You can book a free consultation to talk to one of our Pregnancy and Post Natal practitioners to find out how we may be able to help you. 

When your shoulder is really a pain in the neck…

An aching shoulder may not necessarily indicate a shoulder problem, and equally a sore neck may not always be a neck problem. The body can often report pain in a confusing, unreliable way. It is common that people with shoulder pain really have a neck problem and vice versa.

Why? Because the neck and shoulder are closely connected by nerves. When injury occurs, referred pain can develop as a result of the brain having difficulty determining the source of pain along the commonly shared nerves. Therefore, often what we feel may not be what is actually occurring.

Because the reported site of pain is often not the source, a thorough examination in combination with a detailed history is required to determine the true source of pain. This involves range of motion testing, provocative neck and shoulder tests, and strength tests.

When the shoulder is the source

Shoulder pain is most often caused by an injury to the rotator cuff, a group of tendons and muscles that stabilize the joint. The rotator cuff can be easily injured by falls, repetitive activities of the arm, sporting injuries etc.  When the rotator cuff is injured we compensate by using different muscles to perform simple tasks like reaching or picking things up. This compensation may cause both shoulder and neck pain.

How do you know it’s your shoulder? You may have a shoulder problem if your pain:

  • Develops in the shoulder itself (at the ball and socket joint)
  • Is on the outside of your upper arm
  • Is dull and aching at the above locations
  • Occurs when you do movements involving the arm
    • reaching overhead
    • reaching behind your back
    • when lifting
    • putting your jacket on
  • Radiates into the upper arm, but not past the elbow
  • Aches at night in the shoulder joint
  • Improves when you rest your arm

When the neck is the source

The neck is made up of eight pairs of joints and many nerves and muscles, which means inflammation of any of these structures can cause neck pain. Considering the neck is responsible for all head movements, including even the slightest nod when in a conversation, there is a good chance you will experience inflammation in the neck at some point!! Common ways to injure your neck include; sleeping awkwardly, turning your head suddenly and awkwardly, holding your neck in one position too long (ie at computer or on the phone), car accidents to name a few.

How do you know it’s your neck? You may have neck pain if your pain:

  • Develops in or on the side of your neck, or develops in the shoulder blade
  • Is sharp or stabbing in the neck
  • Radiates down past your elbow or even into your hand
  • Causes difficulty turning your head, or looking up or down
  • Is relieved when you support your neck

It’s important to see a specialist to get a thorough physical examination of your neck and shoulder to help with diagnosis. Whether the problem lies in your neck or your shoulder, it is imperative that conservative measures are first adopted.

5 ways to help relieve pain from a shoulder problem

  1. Resting from activities that aggravate pain
  2. Osteopathic /physical therapy treatment
  3. Icing the shoulder
  4. Anti-inflammatory medications, as directed by your health professional
  5. Rehabilitation/strengthening exercises for the shoulder

If these measures fail to bring relief, you may need imaging (ie X-ray or MRI) of your shoulder to definitively diagnose if there is a more severe injury such as a tear.

6 ways to help relieve pain from a neck complaint

  1. Osteopathic /physical therapy treatment
  2. Ice or heat
  3. Massage
  4. Resting from aggravating activities
  5. Anti-inflammatory medications, as directed by your health professional
  6. Postural exercises

Whether you have persistent pain in your shoulder, your neck or both, don’t wait to seek advice. Having an osteopath or other physical therapist evaluate your complaints will determine where the main problem is and will get you started on the correct course of treatment for you. The earlier the intervention, the quicker the resolution.

Pregnancy back pain from an Osteopath’s view

Pregnancy is such a special experience. There is something to be said about carrying, growing and protecting your little bundle of joy. It is almost impossible to describe the feeling. The pregnancy experience is often described as all joy, love, glowing and happiness, however in reality it can actually turn out to be all nausea, discomfort and pain. Yes it would be wonderful if we all had a pregnancy full of bliss but unfortunately for a large percentage of women this just isn’t how it happens.

For a large portion of pregnant women, we experience varying degrees of back pain. This can range from a low grade ache and discomfort in bed, or on the couch, to discomfort whilst standing, after walking or being on our feet too long. In some instances it is not uncommon to experience severe debilitating pain in which you have to resort to using crouches or a wheel chair or being almost completely house bound.

Whatever the degree of pain you have suffered throughout your pregnancy it certainly puts a “downer” on the whole experience.

So why does it happen?

Firstly, we all know that a women’s body undergoes dramatic changes throughout a pregnancy whilst growing a baby. There are changes that you can see from the outside, changes you can feel on the inside and changes you have no idea that are happening. It is a combination of all these things that can lead to back pain.

Hormonal changes: Some hormonal changes you will feel – you may feel more emotional or have mood swings, your breasts will feel tender, you may feel more hungry, you may feel nauseous, you may need to go to the bathroom more regularly. What you won’t feel is the softening of the ligaments and changes in the soft tissues or muscles which are all attributable to hormones.

Physical changes: You may notice a growing belly, weight gain, larger breasts, swollen hands and feet, your luscious locks of hair. What you may not notice, as it happens so gradually, are the changes in your posture.

As the pregnancy progresses your once good posture starts to fade away to accommodate the growing baby. Your abdominal muscles stretch and are less efficient at contracting, this results in poor alignment and support of the lower back. Your pelvis tilts forward and your back arches. This posture alone means that your once stable lower back and pelvic joints do not function properly and rely more heavily on the surrounding muscles to provide the support and to maintain some sort of posture. For many women their bodies cope with this change and their muscles are able to adapt and provide sufficient support to the joints. However in a number of women their muscles are insufficient and lack the ability to provide the correct support. When this occurs there is significant strain on the joints and this can lead to pain.

Women with existing back or pelvic dysfunction are more likely to develop back pain during pregnancy. Many of the population are unaware they have a back or pelvic problem due to never having symptoms in this region, however the dramatic changes during pregnancy often highlight the problem.

It is common for women that have had a history of prior injury or dysfunction to the lower back or pelvic region will suffer from this type of pain. However injuries to other areas of the body may also contribute to back pain during pregnancy.

The following previous injuries may contribute to pregnancy related back pain;

  • Back strain/injury
  • Hip strain/injury
  • Ankle or knee injury
  • Surgeries to the hip, knee, ankle, back

Unfortunately many women who suffer from back pain during pregnancy become sedentary, thinking that stopping physical activity and resting will help their pain. Although this is the recommended action for some complaints, the vast majority of pregnancy related back pains require the opposite. It is essential to keep those muscles activated and get them working properly to help support the progressing postural changes throughout pregnancy.

The good news is that in most cases, pregnancy related back pain can be treated and managed so that you can enjoy your pregnancy. It is important however to seek the advice of a medical professional and one that is experienced in pregnancy related problems. This may be your obstetrician, osteopath, physiotherapist or chiropractor.

As an Osteopath and a mother, the best advice I can give is DO NOT WAIT to see how it goes. It is unlikely to go away as your body is changing constantly. The earlier you act and address the back pain the quicker you can manage it and prevent it getting worse, so that you can enjoy your pregnancy and remember it being a joyous time!