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 is 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 Iam 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 four and nine months to heal after a birth. Through this period you will be under repetitive physical strain just to take care of your new baby.

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.

Symptoms Postpartum Joint Pain

Symptoms may include tightness, soreness or stiffness in your joints. Most commonly felt in the following areas:

  • Hips
  • Buttocks
  • Lower back
  • Knees
  • Ankles
  • Shoulders
  • Neck

You may also sometimes feel uncomfortable when laying on your side, hips or flat on your back. But can find relief if pressure is taken off of the joint.

You should contact your obstetrician if the pain:

  • Is debilitating or causes you to have difficulty walking
  • Causes you to lose sleep
  • Prevents you from completing regular daily tasks
  • Unable to care for yourself or others

11 Ways to Relieve 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 also restrictions for your treatment that you will have to be mindful of after you give birth. Especially for the first 6-8 weeks.

If your doctor gives you the all clear then the following list of treatment options could be effective in minimizing your symptoms:

1. 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 lay 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, to get your muscles working.

2. 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.

Ice Pack (2-Piece Set)

3. Warm Soothing Bath

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.

An alternative that many of my friends and relatives swear by are heating pads. These are a bit more mobile and practical when you don’t have the time or freedom to disappear to the bathroom for a long hot soak.

Sunbeam Heating Pad for Pain Relief

4. 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!

5. 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. And given that it is a zero impact activity you can push yourself a little harder without straining your 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.

joint pain treatment

6. Check Your Posture

A lot of women that are suffering from lower 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 breastfeeding support 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.

Boppy Nursing Pillow

7. Massage

Postpartum 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.

postpartum massage benefits

8. Keep Using The Pregnancy Pillow

Having the extrapelvic 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.

PharMeDoc Pregnancy Pillow with Jersey Cover

9. Use An Abdominal Binder

postpartum abdominal binder can provide much needed support for your hips, abdomen and back in the months after you give birth.

It will also help your stomach regain some of its shape over time by holding everything in place while your body heals.

If you have had a C-section they can be very effective at minimizing discomfort.

NYOrtho Abdominal Binder Lower Waist Support Belt

10. 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.

Doctor Developed Premium Copper Lined Wrist Support

11. Over The Counter Medications

General pain relievers can be taken to treat joint pain and stiffness.

You should consult with your doctor before taking anything, especially if you are taking any other type of regular medication or breastfeeding.

Final Word

The most important thing is to really listen to your body when deciding how to treat your joint pain.

While it is normal to experience some level of pain, you should not have to suffer in silence. So take action to resolve the issue and if your symptoms persist always seek medical help.

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