Neck pain is common during pregnancy. Though it starts lightly, it seems to be more problematic in the later stages of pregnancy. While sleep deprivation during pregnancy is a common problem, neck pain during pregnancy adds fuel to it. It is no surprise that a woman’s body goes through a lot of changes in 9 months. The added weight of the baby and change in hormones all add to it.
Though neck pain during pregnancy is a common occurrence, steps must be taken in the initial stage to manage and treat the pain. Nonetheless neck, back, and shoulder pain are common during pregnancy, it differs from person to person. It all depends upon your lifestyle and what your pregnancy is all about.
Here we discuss things you need to know about reasons, remedies, and precautions for neck pain during pregnancy.
What Causes Neck Pain During Pregnancy?
Though many of the symptoms and inconveniences of pregnancy are widely discussed, not much is known about neck pain during pregnancy. This could be caused by various factors as your body is already going through a lot of changes. It is believed that neck pain happens due to various physiological changes happening in the body to accommodate the growing baby.
The increased weight of the growing baby could put on more weight that could become a strain on your back and neck muscles causing you discomfort. While it is easy to ease neck pain with over-the-counter medicines, it is not the case in pregnancy. If you are experiencing neck pain in silence to avoid using medicines that might harm your child, we suggest you know the cause for the same first to treat it properly as it could lead to other complications such as headache, shoulder pain, numbness, or swelling in the neck.
A woman might feel stiffness and neck pain in pregnancy’s first trimester. This might get worse as the pregnancy progresses. Listed below are a few causes of neck pain during pregnancy.
1. Reduction or lack of exercise
Many women experience fatigue during pregnancy. As the pregnancy progresses, they tend to gain more weight which reduces their mobility or their gym time, or physical activity. While a drop in the regular activities is considered okay, stopping them completely might have several effects on your muscles.
When muscles aren’t used properly or aren’t exercised the way they need to retain their strength, it could lead to muscle soreness resulting in neck stiffness.
Related Reading: 8 Benefits Of Exercising During Pregnancy
2. Change in posture
During pregnancy, the curvature of the spine is exaggerated as the vertebrae along the back move to make room for the growing baby. This could add stress to your lower back. When one part of the body is affected, it impacts the other part as well. When there is stress added to the lower back, it changes the demands on the muscles of your neck and shoulders. This could lead to neck pain during pregnancy.
Staying in a fixed position for a long time or when there is no mobility could lead to stiffness and neck pain during pregnancy. Your body requires movement to keep your body muscles limber. This becomes even more difficult in the later stages of pregnancy. Sheer lack of movement could lead to neck pain during pregnancy and one easy way to combat immobility is to walk during pregnancy. These are mostly experienced in places where there is too much strain.
4. Sleeping position
Pregnant women are advised to sleep on their left side owing to a lot of factors. However, sleeping in the same position for an extended period could lead to pain and stiffness.
To prepare your body for delivery, the relaxin and progesterone hormones loosen joints and ligaments. This could make you more susceptible to muscle aches and pain.
Related Reading: 7 Home Remedies For Leg Cramps During Pregnancy
How To Get Relief From Neck Pain During Pregnancy With Home Remedies?
Headaches, numbness, stiffness, and swelling in the neck area would mostly be due to an ache in the neck area causing neck pain during pregnancy. While there are many OTC (over the counter) medicines available to treat this, doctors do not recommend unnecessary medications unless the situation is complicated. This is done for the welfare of the baby and the mom-to-be.
This doesn’t mean you need to endure the pain without medications. There are many simple techniques and home remedies with which you can try to get away with the pain. If you are not sure how to go about it, always consult your doctor once.
Listed below are a few simple treatments for you to try at home.
One of the common causes of neck pain is due to immobility. Try to stretch the muscles by moving or tilting your head left to right. Make sure not to raise your shoulders while doing this. Also, do not roll your head around as it might not be helpful. Practicing breathing exercises with a hold count of 3 seconds will also help in easing pain. This is to relax the stiffness in the muscles.
2. Try hydrotherapy
Alternating between hot and cold-water showers in the pain area could be a great way to reduce your neck pain during pregnancy. Allow the water to run in your neck area alternating the temperature for several minutes. Hot water helps to improve blood circulation which in turn helps to ease stiffness and provide relaxation to muscles. On the other hand, cold water helps to reduce inflammation and acts as a soother. You can also use a heating/cooling pad.
Related Reading: 9 Normal Early Pregnancy Pains
3. Change the pillow
Using the wrong pillow or using too many pillows to seek support may increase your neck pain during pregnancy. It is advised to invest in a good pregnancy pillow that might give you sound sleep. Maternity pillows will give you the required support easing the stiffness accumulated on your neck. Also, placing these pillows beneath your knees will help you get a proper sleeping position.
4. Get a massage
Massage gives great relief to stiffness and neck pain during pregnancy. You can ask your spouse or the members of the family to massage your neck gently. Use lavender oil, olive oil, or coconut oil for best results. Alternatively, you can also check for prenatal massage centers in your area.
5. Try swimming
Swimming is believed to ease neck pain during pregnancy. However, it is safe to consult your doctor before indulging in water-based sports.
6. Use a tennis ball
You can make use of a tennis ball to relieve your neck pain during pregnancy. You can gently rub the ball over your neck from left to right. Place the ball on the wall and move slowly from one side to another. You may use your body weight to get the desired pressure.
When To See A Doctor For Neck Pain During Pregnancy?
Though neck pain during pregnancy is harmless and goes away with simple home remedy techniques, there are instances where it could be more severe. However, if your pain starts to worsen spreading to your arms or legs, or if the neck pain is accompanied by headache or numbness, it is better to consult the doctor right away.
Also, neck pain in pregnancy during the first trimester — between 4 – 12 weeks of pregnancy could be a sign the egg is growing outside the uterus. In this case, you are advised to contact the doctor immediately to avoid any mishap.
Related Reading: 10 Danger Signs Of Pregnancy To Watch Out For
Prevention And Exercises For Neck Pain During Pregnancy
Most women think neck pain is a part of pregnancy and will fade away as the pregnancy progresses. However, if you suffer from chronic neck pain during pregnancy, it can make your everyday activities difficult and painful. While they say prevention is better than cure, if you catch the symptoms early, you can avoid them from worsening.
Listed below are a few precautions you must follow to prevent neck pain during pregnancy.
- Try to be mobile throughout the day. Spending 5-10 doing basic exercises or stretches can help your body from stiffness
- Though weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable, excessive weight gain might contribute to complications. Maintaining a healthy weight will alleviate many pains you experience throughout pregnancy
- Lack of site strength is often the root cause of many aches and pains. Focus on keeping the core strong with prenatal exercises
- Avoid slouching or hunching for a prolonged period. Keep your shoulders pulled back and maintain a proper posture to avoid slouching forward
- Choose flat or low-heeled shoes to avoid adding pressure or strain to the neck and upper back
- Avoid sitting for a long time. Take a walk at least once in a gap of every hour
- Many of us underestimate the power of exercise. Consider doing workouts that will help your body relieve discomfort and stiffness
Exercises For Neck Pain During Pregnancy
As we discussed, exercises and stretches are the keys to relieving neck pain during pregnancy. Listed below are a few exercises that you can try at home.
1. Chin tucks with rotation
This is a simple yet effective exercise.
- Sit tall in a chair or stand against a wall with your feet separated
- Place a finger on your chin and gently pull your head straight back until you feel a pull on the neck
- Maintain this for five seconds by keeping your shoulders relaxed
- Now turn your head from left to right several times and return to the starting position
- Do this as 10 repetitions. This can be done several times a day
2. Wall angles
This exercise works best to strengthen your back and open up rounder shoulders which lead to neck pain.
- Stand with your back against a wall and your feet about 4 inches away from the wall
- Tuck your pelvis towards your ribcage with a slight posterior pelvic tilt and flatten your lower back
- Make sure the shoulders are away from your ears. Now slightly tuck your chin
- With the back of your hands and forearms against the wall, get your arms to about 90°
- Slowly straighten your arms above your head by squeezing your midback
- Your back, head, forearms, and hands need to be in contact with the wall throughout
- Now, lower them back down to slightly below 90 degrees once you reach the top
- Complete 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions by keeping them slow