Postpartum Joint Pain – A Pain in the Butt

While I was pregnant, I suffered from the normal aches and pains that most expectant mothers have.

Lower back pain, hip pain later in the pregnancy, leg, knee and ankle pains.

I was hugely pregnant through the summer and swollen to the point of immobility so joint pain seemed to be just a normal part of pregnancy to me. I thought for sure these pains would lessen as soon as my baby was born.

On the night of her birth, after a 23-hour long labor, my hip and back pain was as strong as ever. I chalked this up to having a long, natural labor and birth and gave myself 6 weeks to recover.

Because so many new moms think that postpartum joint pain is normal, it often dismissed as something that you have to live with. So the conversation with your doctor may never happen, and there is certainly a lack of good information online. 

After 9 months of joint pain I knew i had to take some action! And i am so glad I did. You don't have to suffer through this.

With my doctor’s help I learned a lot about what was normal, and not so normal, about my postpartum joint pain and how I could relieve the pain I was feeling in my butt, hips, back and legs.

What Causes Postpartum Joint Pain?

Aside from the weight gain that women experience during pregnancy that puts extra strain on their bones and joints, pregnancy also causes a special hormone to be released that causes changes in the body. Relaxin is produced by the brain during pregnancy and causes your pubic bone ligaments to relax to allow for the muscles and ligaments to expand and get ready for the birthing process.

Many times, these ligaments are stretched beyond their natural capacity. During the process of delivery, there is even more pressure and strain placed on these ligaments and muscles.

Another cause of Postpartum Joint Pain is the numerous repetitive motions that you are going through physically as a new mother. Your body will take between 4 and 9 months to heal 100% after a birth and getting up and down every few hours to pick up a baby throughout the night, rocking and swaying with a baby, and all the other motions you go through leave little time to rest and allow time for your joints, muscles, and ligaments to relax and return to normal.

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Symptoms Postpartum Joint Pain

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    Tightness, soreness or stiffness around your hips, butt, lower back, knees, ankles, shoulders, neck and other joints
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    Feeling uncomfortable when laying on your side, hips, flat on your back, but can find relief if pressure is taken off of the joint

If you experience joint pain that is debilitating or causes you to have difficulty walking, causes you to lose sleep, makes you unable to complete daily tasks, care for yourself or others, or is not manageable, contact your obstetrician immediately.

Relieving Postpartum Joint Pain

Before you do anything to try to relieve your postpartum joint pain at home, make sure that you talk to your doctor and you know your limitations on what you can do when. There are many restrictions you will be on following the birth of your baby, especially for the first 6-8 weeks. If your doctor says you are all clear and free from restrictions, many of ways to relieve joint pain listed below are easily done at home!

Exercise! 

Starting your day off with exercise can be hard, especially with a newborn, but try to start every day by at least doing the bridge exercise. Simply lie on your back with your legs bent at the knees. Position your feet shoulder width apart and raise your butt off the floor while tightening your abs. Keep your shoulders on the floor and hold the position without arching your back for 5 seconds and using control, lower your body to the flower. Try to do at least one set of 5-10 as time permits first thing in the morning. This stretches your hips, legs and back, and gets your muscles working.

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Cold Compress

Soothing for joints that are inflamed, especially if you suffered from arthritis or other joint conditions pre-pregnancy, can reduce swelling and help with pain in your hips. If you are having a lot of hip pain throughout the day, try to have a cold compress on your hips for 10-15 minutes 4-5 times a day.

Warm it Up

If you have muscle and joint pain which is common postpartum, a nice hot bath or shower can work wonders at relieving pain and soothing aching joints. Many of my friends and relatives swear by heating pads as well but take care not to follow all precautions and warnings on the labels and box.

Yoga

Is a great way to stretch out your muscles and help relieve stress on joints. Yoga can also help with balance postpartum and help to maintain a lean figure. There are even mom and baby yoga classes in many major cities!

Swimming

Is one of the best exercises you can do if you are experiencing a lot of joint pain. Many people that suffer from arthritis swim to strengthen their muscles without straining their joints. Swimming is great for new moms as well because it is the ultimate total body workout that can be done quickly for busy moms that are on a tight schedule.

Check your Posture

A lot of women that are suffering from low back, shoulder, and neck pain can’t seem to get any better, especially if they are breastfeeding because they are always hunched over and in uncomfortable positions.

If you don’t already have a nursing pillow, get one. These will help elevate the baby to straighten your back. You can also try side lying positions in bed and being aware of your posture when you’re not nursing as well.

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Massage

Is a great way to help ease joint pain. Many of our partners would probably love the opportunity to give us a massage and ease some of our stress and tension. When our muscles are tight and knotted, this can intensify joint pain. Massage will help the muscles surrounding your joints to relax and loosen up so that your joints can start to loosen up and get back to normal faster as well.

Keep Using the Pregnancy Pillow

Having the extra pelvic support will help with postpartum hip pain and back pain. Sleeping on your side with the pregnancy pillow between your legs, just like you did when you were pregnant, should take some pressure off your hips and lower back.

Use an Abdominal Binder

Persist with the pregnancy belt for a few weeks after giving birth. Your stomach will not go back to its pre-pregnancy shape immediately and the pregnancy belt will give your hips, abdomen and back much needed support after birth, especially if you had a C-section.

Wrist Braces

These are available at most pharmacies and are inexpensive if you are having joint pain in your wrist or hands. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can happen postpartum and will take longer than other joint pain to go away. Wearing a wrist brace will help you manage the symptoms.

Over the Counter Medications

Can be taken to relieve mild aches and pain related to joint pain and stiffness. Make sure to consult with your doctor before you pick anything up, however, to ensure you are aware of all possible drug interactions if you are on other medications or are breastfeeding.