Shoulder Pain During Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Home Remedies


Shoulder pain is a very common problem faced by most pregnant women. It causes a great deal of annoyance and discomfort. Many women keep putting off this pain until it is unbearable. But this is extremely harmful. In this article, we will discuss shoulder pain during pregnancy. Read on to find out everything about this.

The shoulder joint along with the other joints in the body undergoes many changes during pregnancy. Loosening of ligaments combined with the other changes in the body, like a change in the way of sleeping, and postural changes in standing or walking, can cause shoulder pain in pregnant women.

All You Need to Know about Shoulder Pain during Pregnancy

shoulder pain pregnancy

Symptoms of Shoulder Pain in Pregnancy

Symptoms of shoulder pain during pregnancy are:

Shoulder Pain Radiating to the Cervical Area

This builds up over the day and is generally combined with a burning feeling in the eyes and pain in the base of the skull. It is generally related to tension and fatigue


First Trimester Shoulder Pain (Accompanied With Symptoms Like Nausea, Vomiting, Migraine, Fainting, Low Blood Pressure, And Higher Than Normal Weight Gain)

These symptoms may be a cause for concern and may need to be addressed with the advice of a medical professional.

Causes of Shoulder Pain in Pregnant Women

While shoulder pain is generally one of the symptoms of pregnancy, occasionally it may indicate a more serious issue, including the following:

  • Shoulder pain during early pregnancy is sometimes a sign of an ectopic or tubal pregnancy which is a potentially life threatening problem needing immediate medical intervention. This pain is characterized by sharp, stabbing pain in the abdomen which can also radiate to the shoulder and back.
  • Shoulder pain may also be because of gallstones, deposits of cholesterol or calcium in the gallbladder or its bile ducts.
  • Sometimes, a shoulder pain may be caused by stomach complaints like constipation, bloating, flatulence and stomach ulcers. These causes are typified by pains that originate in the stomach area and then spread up to the back and shoulder.
  • Excessive weight and unbalanced weight in the abdomen can also cause shoulder blade pain and shoulder pain during second trimester. Here the pain originates from the lower back and spreads out to the back muscles and shoulders.
  • Left shoulder pain occurs frequently in pregnant women in their 2ndand 3rd trimester when they try to follow medical advice and sleep on their left hand side for better blood flow to the embryo.
  • Right shoulder pain and severe right shoulder pain is sometimes a sign of preeclampsia where a pregnant woman’s blood pressure and the amount of protein in the urine both become very high.
  • Mental strain is where shoulder pain is combined with tension and stiffness in the upper back and base of the skull, tension headaches, and migraines.

Treatment for Shoulder Pain During Pregnancy

Certain painkillers can be harmful during pregnancy and should not be taken without a doctor’s advice.

  • Anti-inflammatory sprays and creams to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Ice Packs at the site of the pain and around it
  • Physical therapy like yoga, acupressure, stretching exercises and finding a good position to sleep in or a better bed
  • Taking care of gastric complaints before they give rise to shoulder pain
  • Taking enough rest to fend off tension stress and shoulder pain
  • Toning down on physically strenuous activities can help shoulder pain during the third trimester. Intense activities can combine with the tiredness and change in the centre of balance of the body to cause injuries and shoulder pain
  • Following a good self-care routine of massage, creams and hydration before sleep to aid relaxation and good quality of sleep

How to Avoid Shoulder Pain?

Here are some measures to avoid shoulder pain at this time:

  • Sleeping well to avoid tension build-up in the area
  • Eating well and avoiding gastric issues that may present with shoulder pain.
  • Avoiding bad posture while sleeping, standing, sitting and walking, thus preventing shoulder pain from developing
  • Sexually transmitted diseases can cause scarring in the reproductive organs and give rise to an ectopic pregnancy. Thus, avoiding STDs can prevent this particular cause of shoulder pain
  • Smokers and those who have had a previous ectopic pregnancy can seek medical help to address this problem and prevent the associated shoulder pain

Home Remedies for Shoulder Pain While Pregnant

Many pregnant women prefer to take care of shoulder pain in the privacy of their own homes.

  • The most effective method is to take a lot of rest and avoid the build-up of everyday tensions that give rise to shoulder pain at home and at work. This may involve:
    • Scaling back on responsibilities professionally and at home, since a very important job of incubating a living being is already in progress
    • Employing help or enlisting a trusted family member or friend when possible to take care of jobs that can give rise to strain and tension
    • Sleeping more and taking small naps
    • Not aiming for perfection in each aspect of all duties
  • Getting sleep-aids like a cervical pillow and a pillow under the feet or between the legs to promote better sleep and less strain on the shoulder on waking.
  • Applying ice packs and cold towels to the affected area
  • Yoga, swimming, massages, and exercise routine and physical therapy under the guidance of experts to help with muscle strain and pain
  • Eating less spicy and oily foods, to help with shoulder pain of gastric origin and gallstones

While pregnancy comes with its fair share of aches and pains, most of which cannot be avoided, adequate rest, mild exercise and healthy eating habits go a long way in easing the discomfort. Do remember that any pain or symptom needs to be attended by a doctor if it starts interfering with your daily routine.


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