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Shoulder pain when pregnant

Looks like the laundry list of aches and pains never ends. Shoulder pain usually stems from changes in posture and weight gain (and maybe all the shrugging you’re doing when people ask if it’s a boy or a girl!).

What causes it?

Progesterone, a hormone released at high levels during pregnancy, tends to loosen your joints and ligaments, producing additional strain and discomfort. And as your body increases in size, particularly in your midsection, your center of gravity shifts and could cause you to hunch over. You might just experience shoulder pain for the same reasons we all do, like an uncomfortable sleeping position, but more serious causes include preeclampsia, gallstones and ectopic pregnancy.


Treatment will vary based on the cause of your shoulder pain, so talk to your healthcare provider if you experience other symptoms of these serious conditions. Try to maintain a stretching routine, not only for your shoulders, but also for your overall posture. Heat packs could also help soothe any discomfort. You may want to apply ice packs to sore areas, but it’s a good idea not to take any painkillers unless they’re approved by your healthcare provider. It could be that your shoulders are sore from holding up your growing breasts, so wearing a supportive bra may also help. And never hesitate to treat yourself to a relaxing massage!

Reviewed by Dr. Jamie Lo
Read more
  • “Body changes and discomforts.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 9/27/2010. Web.
  • “Signs & Symptoms.” Preeclampsia Foundation. Preeclampsia Foundation, 7/5/2010. Web.
  • “Ectopic Pregnancy: FAQ 155.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 8/11/2015. Web.
  • “Ectopic Pregnancy.” U.S National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, 2/24/2014. Web.
  • “Preeclampsia.” U.S National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, 7/28/2014. Web.

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