Shoulder Pain in New Moms: Understanding and Addressing the Common Causes

Have you ever heard of condition called Mother’s Shoulder? This is not one from the textbooks but something I have found in my patient’s and in my own life after having my son.  Many new moms report discomfort and pain in their shoulders during the postpartum period. Let’s talk about some of the common reasons for this shoulder pain and offer practical solutions to alleviate and prevent it.

  1. Sleeping on Your Side:

After giving birth, new moms often find themselves sleeping on their side to facilitate breastfeeding and for overall comfort. However, prolonged side-sleeping can cause shoulder pain due to the pressure placed on one shoulder for extended periods. This can lead to muscle tension and strain.

Solution: To mitigate this issue, consider alternating sides during sleep and use supportive pillows to maintain proper spinal alignment. Investing in a quality pregnancy pillow can provide additional support and comfort during side-sleeping.

  1. Holding and Carrying the Baby:

Cradling and carrying the baby for extended periods can put significant strain on the shoulders and upper back. Newborns need constant attention and cuddling, making it challenging for new moms to avoid repetitive shoulder movements.

Solution: I recommend that you opt for baby carriers or wraps that evenly distribute the baby's weight across your body. This can reduce the strain on your shoulders and promote better posture. There are a wide array so you may need to try more than one style to find what works for you and baby. Additionally, remember to switch arms and positions frequently while holding your baby to prevent overloading one shoulder.

  1. Nursing Posture:

Breastfeeding is a beautiful bonding experience, but improper nursing posture can lead to shoulder pain. Hunching over to bring the baby closer to the breast or using poor body mechanics during feeding can strain the shoulder muscles.

Solution: Prioritize a comfortable and supportive nursing environment. Use nursing pillows to bring the baby up to breast level, reducing the need to lean forward. Ensure your back is adequately supported during nursing sessions and maintain a straight posture to minimize shoulder strain.

  1. Core Weakness:

Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the core muscles, which are essential for maintaining proper posture and stability. As a result, the shoulders may compensate for this lack of core strength, leading to pain and discomfort.

Solution: Engage in postpartum exercises specifically designed to strengthen the core muscles. Consult with a postnatal fitness expert or physical therapist to develop a safe and effective exercise routine tailored to your individual needs.

  1. Carrying Heavy Items:

In the whirlwind of new motherhood, it's not uncommon for new moms to carry heavy diaper bags, strollers, or other baby-related equipment. The additional weight can strain the shoulders and exacerbate existing pain.

Solution: Be mindful of the weight you carry. Consider using a backpack-style diaper bag that distributes the weight evenly across your shoulders. Use strollers with adjustable handles to maintain proper posture while pushing.

  1. Effects of Relaxin on Joints:

During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is released in higher amounts to prepare the body for childbirth. One of its essential functions is to loosen the ligaments and joints, particularly in the pelvic region, allowing for easier delivery. However, relaxin doesn't exclusively target the pelvis; it affects other joints in the body as well, including the shoulders.

Postpartum, the effects of relaxin still linger in the body especially if you are breastfeeding which make the joints more susceptible to instability. The combined impact of relaxin and the demands of caring for a newborn can be an underlying risk factor for shoulder pain in new moms.

Solution: Given the influence of relaxin on joint stability, it's essential for new moms to be cautious with their shoulder movements and avoid overstretching or placing excessive stress on the joints. Low-impact exercises and gentle stretches can help maintain joint flexibility without compromising stability. Additionally, engaging in postpartum exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles can provide better support to the shoulder joints.

So there you go. You are not alone! Shoulder pain is a very common concern among new moms. Fortunately, there are many practical solutions to address and prevent this discomfort. As you are able to get more rest, use ergonomic options, maintaining better nursing posture, strengthening your core, and being mindful and protective of your body mechanics (when possible), new moms can enjoy their motherhood journey with less shoulder pain. If you are someone you know is experiencing pain, especially during pregnancy and the post partum periods please see you doctor. You know the expression, "it takes a village to raise a child"  well I like to also say it takes a team to support the demands of parenthood. If you are looking for a holistic and compassionate chiropractor on your healthcare team, call us today! 

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