Knee Pain During Pregnancy: Causes And Ways To Manage It

knee pain during pregnancy

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Body aches and pain are a common occurrence during pregnancy, mostly because of the extra weight that you gain at this stage. The joints in your body also get softer during pregnancy, to prepare for the delivery.

As you continue to gain weight through the nine months, some amount of pressure is exerted on your pelvic floor muscles, uterus, joints, and ligaments. These factors, together, contribute to the pain in your knees. Keep reading this MomJunction post to understand the causes, complications, and ways to treat knee pain during pregnancy.

What Are The Causes Of Knee Pain During Pregnancy?

Knee pain occurs in most women, but there are different reasons for different types of knee pain.

  1. Hormonal changes: In your third trimester, the secretion of relaxin hormone loosens up the pelvic ligaments and tendons to prepare for childbirth. They will not only affect ligaments of the pelvic region but also loosen the ligaments and tendons of the knees (1).
  2. Weight gain: The gradual increase in weight during pregnancy will exert strain on the knees, leading to knee pain. This is intense if it is your first pregnancy, as the body may not be able to bear the extra weight (2).
  3. Exercises: Too much exercise will also weaken the knees. Squats, especially, will lead to knee pain (3).
  4. Falls and injuries: Sudden falls, strain or knee injuries as a result of the changing body will also result in knee pain (4).
  5. Walking or standing: Knee pain will also develop due to the extended periods of walking or standing when the knees are forced to carry excess weight for longer (5).
  6. Deficiency of calcium: The need for calcium increases during pregnancy (6), and might result in a deficiency if the body does not take the right amounts. It, therefore, raises the risk of knee pains.

[ Read: Tailbone Pain During Pregnancy ]

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Are There Any Complications Associated With Pregnancy Knee Pain?

If knee pain is not treated on time, it might lead to certain complications in the future.

  • Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease will develop in the later stages. This will lead to joint stiffness, pain, and locking of knee joints (7).
  • Damage in the protective cartilage and ligament around the knee joints, which leads to difficulties in walking, running, and bending in the future (8).

Managing knee pain becomes essential to make pregnancy a comfortable time for the mom-to-be.

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How To Manage Knee Pain During Pregnancy?

Here are a few ways in which you can try to alleviate knee pain during pregnancy (9).

  • Exercise: Low-impact exercises such as moderate walking and swimming will strengthen your quadriceps, and offer support to your knees. They, will, therefore, prevent knee pain.
  • Give some rest to your feet: Do not strain your feet too much, and rest more as you start to gain weight. It will help ease your knee pain.
  • Get right shoes: Use shoes that are well-cushioned for proper arch support. The cushions act as shock absorbers and prevent knee pain during early pregnancy.
  • Manage your bodyweight: Try maintaining your weight as gaining weight too quickly is bad for the joints. On an average, you can put around 15 to 25 pounds throughout pregnancy.
  •  Use knee braces: Wear a knee brace that comes with a doughnut-hole in the center while walking or other physical activities. They offer support to the loose ligaments and tendons around the knee and control the pain.
  • Hot and cold compress: Take a hot water bath or apply a heating pad to the knees, followed by an ice pack. This alternative therapy will reduce the pain and swelling around the knee joints.
  • Massage therapy: Getting a massage therapy will help in relieving joint pains and stiffness. They also help in improving the range of motion.
  • Improve your diet: Include a balanced diet of all essential nutrients. Increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D to relieve joint pains and stiffness.
  • Rest well: Take enough rest as it helps ease the joint or knee pains.

[ Read: Back Pain During Pregnancy ]

If these above measures do not work and the pain aggravates, you need to visit your doctor for proper medical treatment.

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Treatment For Joint Pain During Pregnancy

The safest over-the-counter medicine your doctor would prescribe is acetaminophen (Tylenol) that helps relieve mild joint pains. Take only small dosages, or as prescribed by the doctor, since excessive use is associated with liver damage (10) ( (11).

Avoid soothing creams and ointments that contain methyl salicylate as they can cause a burning sensation on the skin (12).

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Can You Prevent Knee Pain During Pregnancy?

You can’t prevent knee pain unless it is due to a fall or injury. Try and maintain your weight as increased body weight leads to sore knees and causes knee pain. Give enough rest to your body to avoid joint pains and include foods rich in calcium and omega-3 fatty acids after consulting your doctor.

Knee pain is one of the many physical discomforts you face during pregnancy. Following the simple tips mentioned above will help you avoid complications postpartum. If they do not help, consult your doctor.

[ Read: Hip Pain During Pregnancy ]

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Did you have experience any joint pains or knee pain while you were pregnant? Let us know how you managed the pain. Write to us in the below comment section.

References:

1. Hyunju Yoo et al.; Changes in the spinal curvature, degree of pain, balance ability, and gait ability according to pregnancy period in pregnant and nonpregnant women; J Phys Ther Sci (2015)
2. Spahn G et al.; [Knee-related Pain Problems during Pregnancy Correlate with an Increase in Body Weight. Results of a Prospective Study].; Z Geburtshilfe Neonatol (2015)
3. Safety of the Squat Exercise; American College of Sports Medicine
4. Knee Sprains and Strains; University Health Sciences (2011)
5. Hiroki Sugiura & Shinichi Demura; Effects of Mild and Severe Knee Joint Pain on Various Activities of Daily Living in the Female Elderly; Pain Res Treat (2013)
6. Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Bone Health; NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center (2015)
7. Osteoarthritis of the knee; Orthopedics University of Colorado (2019)
8. Knee Pain and Problems; Columbia University Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine
9. Knee Pain; Cedars-Sinai
10. A P Dwivedi and D Erkan; Top 10 Series: Lupus and Pregnancy; Hospital for Special Surgery (2010)
11. Overdoing acetaminophen; Harvard Health (2009)
12. The Burning Issue with Pain Relief Creams; Medsafe – New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority

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Rebecca Malachi

She is a Biotechnologist with a proficiency in areas of genetics, immunology, microbiology, bio-engineering, chemical engineering, medicine, pharmaceuticals to name a few. Her expertise in these fields has greatly assisted her in writing medical and life science articles. With 8+ years of work experience in writing for health and wellness, she is now a full-time contributor for Momjunction.com. She is passionate about giving research-based information to readers in need. Apart from writing, she is a foodie, loves travel, fond of gospel music and enjoys observing nature in silence. Know more about her at: linkedin.com/in/kothapalli-rebecca-35881628
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