Joint pain in pregnancy does not indicate any harm or complication and is a common occurrence. However, it could make it difficult for you to move around. The level of inconvenience could vary depending on the joint affected. Read about the common joints affected by pain and treatment and remedies for joint pain during pregnancy in this post.
Common Areas Of Joint Pain During Pregnancy
Joint pains in pregnancy may occur in any joint of the body, but a few joints could be more susceptible than others.
- Sacroiliac/hip joint: The hormones released during pregnancy help relax the muscles of the pelvis joint, which in turn causes the sacroiliac joint or the hip joint to rotate, causing pain. Sometimes, the baby’s weight might also exert additional strain on the hip joints and cause pain (2).
- Lumbar/lower back: Back pain is very common in pregnancy. It occurs due to softening and stretching of the ligaments, preparing the birth canal for labor (3). The stretching of the ligaments could exert pressure on the lower back joints and the pelvic area, leading to backaches.
- Knee: Knee pain during pregnancy may occur due to several reasons such as weight gain, change of gait due to new belly shape, and inadequate rest. In several cases, knee pain could occur due to inadequate physical activity. Pregnant women with a sedentary lifestyle could be more prone to knee pain (4).
- Pubic symphysis/pelvic joint: It is a joint between the hip bones. Pain in the pelvic joint during pregnancy mostly occurs due to the relaxing of the pelvic ligaments and muscles by hormones. These hormonal changes help prepare the body for childbirth (5). Pelvic joint pain is also sometimes referred to as pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain.
Treatment For Joint Pain During Pregnancy
Joint pain during pregnancy can cause discomfort while moving or performing any other physical activity. Therefore, it is important to take care of the body and the joints during pregnancy with the help of proper exercise and good nutrition. In case your joint pain worsens, it is advised to consult your doctor at the earliest.
Some home remedies to treat joint pain during pregnancy are as follows.
- Hot or cold therapy: You may apply a hot water bag to the affected joint to relieve pain as the heat helps loosen up muscles and facilitates blood circulation (6). You may also use an ice pack to numb the area and relieve the pain.
- Use splints: A splint is a device used to provide support to the bones and reduce pain. Splints can be used to provide relief from pain in the hands or knees (1).
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are known to possess analgesic properties and may reduce joint pain substantially (7). Therefore, consuming food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or nuts, may help relieve your joint pain.
- Wear comfortable footwear: Avoid footwear with high heels and hard soles. Opt for comfortable footwear with flat, soft soles that cushion and support your foot.
- Try light exercises: Doing light exercises or stretching can help keep your joints healthy and flexible. Walking and some simple stretches that do not strain your belly could be helpful.
- Elevate your feet: Sleep on your side with your feet slightly elevated with a pillow’s support. It could reduce strain on the knees and might relieve knee pain in some pregnant women (1).
General Guidelines For Exercising During Pregnancy
Many pregnant women may consider exercise to relieve joint pain in pregnancy. Mild exercises during pregnancy are known to be helpful for the health of the mother and the baby (8). However, it is important to discuss the intensity, frequency, and type of exercise with your doctor or physiotherapist first.
Below are a few general guidelines to keep in mind while exercising during pregnancy (8):
- Avoid overexerting yourself.
- Do not exercise in extremely sunny/hot weather to avoid dehydration.
- If you are in the second or third trimester, avoid exercises that require you to lay down flat on your back, as this posture may decrease the blood flow to the uterus.
- Relaxation and stretching exercises could be helpful.
- Wear comfortable shoes that support your entire sole.
- Keep yourself hydrated while exercising and take frequent breaks.
- Consider eating a healthy and nutritious diet that contains a sufficient amount of protein and carbohydrates.
When To See A Doctor
If joint pain worsens or interferes with your daily activities, consult a doctor. Do not have any medication or pain reliever without consulting the doctor first. You must also see the doctor if joint pain is accompanied by stiffness or swelling or you experience muscle pain as well.
Joint pain during pregnancy is fairly common. In most cases, regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and adequate rest are sufficient to alleviate joint pain. However, if the acute pain persists and worsens over the course of time, it is better to consult your doctor to avoid any complications, such as arthritis, during or after pregnancy.
- Treating joint pain naturally during pregnancy.
- Back pain in pregnancy.
- Knee pain and pregnancy: a guide for the expectant mother.
- Pregnancy: pelvic and hip pain.
- What’s better for soothing arthritis pain? Ice or heat?
- Robert J. Goldberg et al.
A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain.
- Pregnancy exercise guidelines.