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Shoulder Pain during Pregnancy

Shoulder pain during pregnancy should be taken very seriously, as it causes a lot of discomfort to the mother-to-be. Find out the causes behind the problem and the possible treatment options offered for the same.
HerHaleness Staff
Last Updated: Apr 4, 2018
The entire body undergoes so many changes during pregnancy that pain in one form, or the other is quite normal. Shoulder pain is one of them. Studies have found that more than 20 to 30% of women have experienced this kind of pain during pregnancy.
Sometimes, the cause of the pain can be directly related to some problem in the shoulder, and in others the actual source of pain could be in another part of the body, like the abdomen, but the pain is felt in the shoulder.
Associated Symptoms
Shoulder pain occurs mainly in the early stages of pregnancy and may be accompanied by symptoms, like:
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Spotting
  • Faintness
  • Nausea, or vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Throbbing pain in the upper right quadrant
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Migraine
  • Low blood pressure
One of the serious causes behind severe shoulder pain is ectopic pregnancy or tubal pregnancy. This is a condition of misplaced embryo where the implantation has not occurred in the endometrial area of the uterus, but is in some other part.
It could be at the junction of the Fallopian tube and uterus, or at the cervix, or any other part of the abdominal cavity. As a result, one experiences a stabbing pain in the abdomen, which often gets radiated to the shoulder and back region as well. This could be life-threatening, and immediate medical intervention is needed.
Gallstones may also develop during pregnancy, which could result in this kind of pain. Basically, gallstones are deposits of cholesterol, or calcium inside the gallbladder, or in any other bile ducts present in that area.
When foods high in cholesterol and fats are eaten, the gallbladder gets a signal to release bile for the digestion of fatty foods. If this bile remains inside the gallbladder for a long time, gallstones are formed.
During pregnancy, the digestion process of the body slows down due to the release of large amount of progesterone hormones. As a result, the gallbladder fails to empty itself completely. This results in the formation of gallstones that block the bile duct, which triggers abdominal pain and sharp pain in the right shoulder.
If this kind of pain is experienced after eating spicy foods followed by nausea and vomiting, then the cause is likely to be gallstones.
Disorders in the esophagus, or pancreas, stomach ulcers, flatulence, constipation, and bloating can also cause the pain in the right shoulder and upper back area.
Due to increase in body weight, lot of pressure is exerted on the upper back muscles, which in turn strains the shoulder muscles and results in pain.
As the fetus develops inside the womb, a kind of imbalance occurs that affects the body posture, which puts a lot of stress on the back muscles. Hence, an intense pain is felt in the upper spine and shoulder bones.
The treatment in this case depends on the underlying cause. If it is caused by ectopic pregnancy, then the treatment is based on the health condition of the mother. In some cases, surgery may be required. Here, the main aim of the treatment is to save the mother and her future fertility.
For gallstones, doctors ask patients to follow a bland diet to prevent further complications of the gallbladder. Usually, doctors avoid a surgery during pregnancy; it is recommended only if the condition keeps recurring.
You could also visit a chiropractor, whose various treatment methods could definitely help relieve back pain, headache, and high/low blood pressure.
Intake of painkillers and application of ice packs on the painful area can also help bring down the pain temporarily.
The points mentioned above, if followed properly, will definitely help ease your shoulder pain.
What You Can Do
  • Stop worrying and being stressed.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take adequate amount of rest.
  • Improve your eating habits.
  • Maintain a good posture, while sitting and sleeping.
  • Try some relaxing yoga exercises that are meant for an expectant mother.
Shoulder pain during pregnancy is one problem that you should never ignore. You should consult your obstetrician to identify the cause, and strictly follow the instructions given by your doctor. Maintaining a good body weight and the correct posture can prevent the pain from occurring due to minor reasons.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.
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Beautiful pregnant woman relaxing in the park
Pregnant woman sitting in the park
Pregnant Women Exercising