Pregnancy Neck Pain: Causes and Treatments

One of the less discussed yet common discomforts in pregnancy is neck pain. This type of pain may stem from the several changes that happen in a woman’s body as it prepares to support baby’s growth and the BIG DAY(childbirth) .

As these changes impact posture, weight distribution and hormonal systems, they can lead to discomfort in the neck region. This article discusses the common causes and effective treatments available for expecting moms.

Why Is My Neck Paining During Pregnancy??

Experiencing neck pain during pregnancy is surprisingly common, and there are a few reasons why this happens. Let’s discuss them:

1. Hormonal changes

During pregnancy, your body goes through several changes. One of these is the rise in the relaxin hormone. The name may seem chill-sounding, though, but it actually causes more stressful effects. This doesn’t undermine its importance in helping to prepare the body for labor.

It makes the body ligaments to be stretchier and loose. You know ligaments hold your bones together and when they become loose, they don’t support your joints as much as they should have.

Your neck has plenty of ligaments that keep it firm, and so when the ligaments are looser, it might not feel as stable enough. This would put a strain on your muscles to work overtime to keep your head up. Eventually, it could cause a sore or achy neck.

Additionally, as your belly grows, the extra weight can change your posture. This would put additional pressure on your neck muscles and hurt even more.

So, this relaxin hormone, coupled with other changes happening to your body can be the big reason why your neck might hurt so bad at this precious time.

2. Postural adjustments

As your baby grows bigger and belly expands, the way you stand and move starts to change. It’s more or less like carrying a watermelon in front of you all day long.

Your center of gravity shifts forward because of the baby’s weight, so you might lean back a bit just so you don’t capsize. This dance of adjustments doesn’t just happen at your belly; it goes all the way up to your neck.

Here’s what happens: your lower back might curve more than usual to balance the extra weight in front. As your back arches, your head and neck might push forward, out of their normal alignment.

This isn’t the usual stance your neck and back muscles are used to, so they have to work harder. And just like any muscle that’s pulling extra duty, they get tired and might start to complain — that complaint is the ache you feel.

At the same time, your sitting posture might have changed too, causing your neck to hurt. This often happens if most of your chairs do not have good support. As comfy as sinking into a soft sofa sounds, it might not give your back and neck the support they need, leading to even more aches.

So, these postural adjustments are your body’s own way of trying to adjust with the new changes happening during pregnancy. Your body is doing a lot of hard work which might lead to a sore neck, just sometimes.

3. Stress and tension

During pregnancy, you might feel stressed for some reasons. Probably worrying about baby’s health, how to care for them or even dealing with everyday issues while also being pregnant. Plus all these changes happening can start to feel pretty overwhelming.

But just like how a house adjusts to new additions, your body has to adapt to carrying a new life. This can be exciting but very stressful. Stress doesn’t just make you moody; it also leads to physical aches, including in your neck area.

When you’re stressed, your muscles tense up as if they’re getting ready to spring into action. This is a natural part of your body’s response to stress, like a reflex.

Your neck and shoulders are common places for this tension buildup. Over time if those muscles stay clamped and don’t get a chance to relax, they can start to really hurt.

How To Relieve Neck Pain While Pregnant

Dealing with neck pain can be annoying, but there are some safe ways to help you relieve it. Here are some treatment recommendations:

1. Proper Posture

Always try to keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed – not hunched. When sitting, support your back and allow your feet to comfortably reach the grounds.

Here are a few quick posture pointers to help keep neck pain at bay:

Standing Tall:

  • Keep your feet about hip-width apart.
  • Straighten your knees to ease the pressure off your lower back.
  • Tuck your bottom under a bit to avoid sticking it out.
  • Draw your shoulders back and down — imagine sliding them into your back pockets.

Sitting Pretty:

neck pain during pregnancy
  • Ensure the chair you pick supports your back comfortably.
  • Sit upright, allowing your back to touch the backrest.
  • Allow feet to rest on the floor. You can also use a footrest.
  • Knees should maintain same height as hips, or just slightly lower.
  • A small cushion or rolled-up towel at the small of your back can work wonders.

Lying Down and Resting:

  • Choose a supportive and comfortable mattress.
  • Support your belly with extra pillows to keep neck and back in a straight line.

2. Exercises

Light exercises and stretches specifically designed for pregnant women can really help. They strengthen your neck and back muscles, which can ease the pain.

One helpful exercise is gently tilting your head to one side, which aims to loosen tight muscles. When doing this, make sure not to raise your shoulders; instead, try to keep them relaxed and imagine you’re trying to melt them down your back. 

Hold the position for three seconds and switch sides. You can then repeat this exercise. Doing this simple activity several times a day can be relieving. It’s also simple and convenient to do; whether you’re at your desk at work, in your OB’s office or standing in line at a grocery store.

Another effective exercise is the chin tuck. This particular exercise strengthens the muscles in the front region of your neck. It’s simple too. Gently pull your chin back backward to create a ‘double chin’ effect.

Your head should be the only part of your body moving. Hold the tuck for about 5 seconds, release and make 8 to 10 repititions. It’s simple and effective way to treat neck pain during pregnancy.

Both exercises are designed to be safe and easy for pregnant women to do. They help reduce neck pains  by stretching and strengthening your neck muscles which intend improves your posture and reduce tensed muscles. But always listen to your body. Discontinue any exercise if you feel discomfort or too much pains.

3. Heat and Cold Therapy

Something as simple as applying heat or cold can offer some pretty relief. It’s like choosing between a cozy blanket or a refreshing ice pack, depending on what feels best for you. Here’s how you can use both to ease the discomfort:

Heat Therapy:

Imagine snuggling with a warm cup of tea. That’s the kind of soothe heat therapy brings. It helps to relax your muscles and increase blood flow to the sore area. You can use warm compresses, a warm towel or a heating pad(set on low).

Just remember, warm isn’t hot, should be just cozy. Apply the warmth to your neck for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time. The best time to do is after a long day when your muscles feel tight, and just when you need to relax.

Cold Therapy:

Imagine pouring a cool water on you on a hot day. Exactly what cold therapy is like for your neck pain. It helps inflammation and anesthethize sharp pains. You can use a cold pack, maybe a bag of chilled peas or a towel.

Wrap it in a cloth so it’s not too cold directly on your skin. Apply it for 15-20 minutes. Just like with heat therapy, the key is feeling comfortable. Cold therapy is especially good when you’ve overdone it and feel swollen or if you’ve just started feeling neck pain.

Some folks find it helpful to switch between heat and cold therapy. You might start with cold therapy to bring down any swelling, then switch to heat to ease tension in your muscles. Listen to your body—it’ll tell you what feels best!

It’s important to keep these precautions to heart. First, always protect your skin. You can use a cloth between the heat or cold source and your skin. Also, if your pain seems to get worse after some days of trying this, inform your doctor ASAP.

4. Supportive gear

Supportive gear might just be the next best thing. It’s almost like having this little helper to hold things steady so your neck catches some rest. Here’re some supportive stuff to try out:

Pregnancy Pillows:

They are super comfy, fluffy clouds that you can mold just how you like. They are designed to support your belly your back and neck when trying to get cozy in bed. By keeping your spine in a good alignment, they take so much pressure off your neck.

Supporting Bras:

These not only support your chest but also help to take the tension off your shoulders and neck. Look for bras with wide, cushioned straps that make a comfy fit. You know, it’s all about feeling supported without any pinching or squeezing.

Maternity Belts:

These belts help to lift your belly just a little bit. It helps you ease the tension on your neck and back by evenly distributing the weight of your baby bump. It’s more like an extra pair of hands holding up your belly so you don’t have to do all the work with your posture.

Bear in mind that comfort is the paramount thing. Regardless of what tool you use, whether pillow, bra or belt, make sure it feels good. If it’s uncomfortable, keep off. Also, get the right size, especially with the bras and belts.

Your body is changing, so what used to work before might not fit now. Last but not least, be kind to yourself. If something feels off or if the gear makes things worse, try a different type or adjust how you’re using it.

5. Massage therapy

Masage relaxes muscle pull. Throughout pregnancy, increased weight and shifts in posture can strain the neck muscles. Massage works by gently stretching and kneading these tight muscles, easing the tension and often providing significant relief from pain. This is especially useful for those knots that seem to hold all the stress and strain of pregnancy.

Additionally, massage promotes blood circulation. Improved blood flow ensures sore areas are fortified with more oxygen and nutrients which helps reduce body swells and promotes healing. This is even more important during pregnancy as hormonal changes can lead to body swells and inflammation, and intend, worsen existing neck pains.

Emotionally, massages reduce stress and promote relaxation. High-stress levels increase pains and discomfort, and so a soothing massage can release endorphins, which is the body’s mood enhancer to help relax both mind and body.

To start with, get the service of a masseuse who specializes in prenatal massage. These experts are trained to understand the shades of the pregnant body and can ensure both safety and comfort. For instance they might use specific comfy pillows to support your bump, or even help you lie sidewise and not your back. 

Additionally, ensure your massage is gentle. It is not the time for deep tissue massage because your body is more susceptible to bruising and can easily arise from too much pressure.

If visiting a professional isn’t an option, you can try from home. You can try to self-massage. If that becomes uneasy, your partner could help out to massage your neck region and shoulders. Light strokes and minimal pressure can still provide relief.

Conclusion

You aren’t alone, neck pain in pregnancy is so common. I receive atleast one complaint every week about this issue. The natural changes that happen to your body during this journey usually result in this. The increased weight, changed posture, and hormonal shifts contribute immensely.

Fortunately, there are safe and treatment options available. You can help your posture, use supportive gears or use exercise and massage therapies for relief. However, don’t leave your doctor out of this.

Be sure to inform them when you decide to go by any of these treatment options. And if pain persists or becomes unbearable after days(2 weeks or longer) without improvement, discontinue and seek medical intervention.

Georgina Austin, CNM

Georgina Austin, CNM

Hello! I'm Gina, a certified midwife, a writer, an experienced one of course, and a proud mother of twins, Noel and Noelle. With eleven years of maternity support experience and my own journey through motherhood, I offer reliable information on women's health here on this blog.

In addition to writing about pregnancy and breastfeeding, I cover topics like sexual health, birth control, egg donation, sibling relationships, and managing life with multiple children. So, whatever issue you're facing as a woman, I've got you covered!