What Causes Neck and Shoulder Pain During Pregnancy?

A woman's body changes a lot throughout pregnancy, resulting in problems like pain, vomiting, and more. Shoulder and neck pain are typical responses of the body during pregnancy. An estimated 40% of women complain of shoulder and neck pain during this period. But these symptoms can indicate serious issues that need medical attention. So never ignore any irregular and severe pain.

There are various reasons for pain depending on individual lifestyle and pregnancy type. Here I am sharing things you need to know, reasons, and solutions of neck and shoulder pain during pregnancy. Use a percussion massager for it.

Read more: How to use a massage gun for pregnancy


Common Causes of Shoulder and Back Pain

Shoulder pain during pregnancy is normal and often directly related to pregnancy. The main reason for this pain is that muscles and joints adjust according to the fetus's needs. Stiffness and little pain are standard, but you should consult a doctor if it gets unbearable. Shoulder pain can lead to serious issues, so keeping track of unusual pain is important to avoid future problems.

First trimester

Your body releases relaxin hormones throughout the pregnancy. Relaxin plays a vital role in helping your body adapt to the change. This special hormone helps the body mold according to the fetus's requirements for survival. With all these changes, relaxin also loosens your joints which can cause pain.

If you encounter severe pain at the start of pregnancy, it can signify an ectopic pregnancy which means implantation of the embryo outside the uterus. Pain at the tip of your shoulder, between shoulder and hand, during 1-3 months can indicate an ectopic pregnancy. These symptoms need urgent visits to the doctor to avoid future risks.

There are many other symptoms of ectopic pregnancy. Shoulder and neck pain are just two of them. The following symptoms may also indicate an ectopic pregnancy:

  • Nausea
  • Vomit
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating and vaginal pain
  • Cramping and pain

Second trimester

The body faces drastic changes in the second trimester, and the baby bump becomes visible. Body changes lead to changes in lifestyle, posture, sleeping style, and sleep schedule.

Pregnancy hormones can lead to unexpected effects such as gallstones, right shoulder pain, abdominal pain, and back pain. These symptoms typically appear in the second and third trimesters. 

All these changes can cause shoulder, back, and neck pain.

If you notice any such symptoms, it's best to consult your doctor.

Third trimester

During the third trimester, the body has to adjust to carrying a grown baby—the baby's weight molds to the shape of the spine and muscles of the mother. Research shows that the spine of a pregnant woman during the last months of pregnancy is more curved at the hip area than a non-pregnant woman. The spine takes on the shape of an S to hold baby weight. These body changes are natural but often affect the shoulder and neck muscles.

Shoulder pain is common because of hormonal, lifestyle, muscle, and joint changes. If you face these standard conditions, remember to consult a doctor and take good care at home.

Increases temperature 

Rubbing the body during a massage raises the temperature of the part of the body where massage is applied. Heat dilates the blood vessels and increases blood flow locally due to the release of nitric oxide. Increased blood flow delivers a high amount of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle cells, thus preventing muscles from injury and improving muscle performance and endurance. Increased blood flow removes excess lactic acid from muscles. This helps treat muscle soreness.

A study by the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reported improved muscular function following a massage. Healthy individuals were asked to do an exercise using a standard leg press machine to develop soreness. After that, half of the group received a Swedish massage on their legs. The results showed no soreness in participants who received a massage.

Increases lymphatic flow

There are many kinds of massage techniques that increase lymphatic flow. Compression on the skin in a certain way increases lymphatic drainage, which helps the body remove waste products. It decreases inflammation as it drains fluid and waste products from tissues. 

It also speeds up the recovery of the injured muscle, which is slowed down by the accumulation of waste. Overall, increased lymphatic flow helps decrease pain, fatigue, weakness, and muscle soreness.

Increases parasympathetic flow

An article published in The Journal of Physiological Sciences suggests that increased parasympathetic activity decreases muscle fatigue. 

Many trigger points correspond to a specific part of the body. Some of these trigger points, when stimulated, enhance the parasympathetic nervous system. Parasympathetic stimulation regulates the nervous system, producing calming effects. It helps restore the body and relieve muscle soreness.

Releases serotonin and endorphins 

Massage is well known for promoting relaxation. It does this by releasing happy hormones, which include serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Serotonin binds with serotonergic receptors in the brain and produces feelings of happiness.

Dopamine binds to its receptors, activates the reward system, and brings pleasure. Endorphins are released during stress and pain. They bind to opiate receptors in the brain and decrease the sensation of pain and reduce anxiety.  This is why you feel so good during a massage

The bottom line

Muscle soreness is a condition that causes discomfort. Muscles become tender, painful, stiff, and swollen. Exercise is the most common cause of muscle soreness. It can also occur due to chronic muscle fatigue, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and other conditions.

Massage is a way to improve health, ease tension, and treat muscle soreness. Pressing on sore muscles activates acupressure points that help them to heal. Increased blood flow and lymphatic drainage remove excess waste from muscle tissue, decrease swelling, and increase recovery. Massage also increases parasympathetic activity and triggers the release of happy hormones that makes you feel good during and after a massage.

All Zarifa USA products are HSA and FSA-eligible. This means you can contribute your health savings funds towards the purchase of any of our products!

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