postpartum joint painJoint pain in the postpartum period is a symptom that is rarely mentioned during pregnancy.  Although not all women suffer from this sensation, those who do experience aches and pains throughout different parts of their body that can feel difficult to understand.  This lack of warning can make you worry when it happens.   You might  feel that your bones have suffered a great deal of loss of density throughout the pregnancy, which is often not the case.  One mother I know in her early 30’s said she felt one hundred years old!  When I did some searches online about this topic it wasn’t easy to get a lot of clear answers.  I hope this article can help shed some light on this subject.

In response to a patient’s question about the reason her back hurt,  Dr.Moore, an Anesthesiologist at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital states: “My rule-of-thumb is that 90% of mothers will have some type of back pain for six weeks to six months–postpartum back pain. During pregnancy, your placenta secretes hormones, which cause laxity of the ligaments in your back. This allows Lordosis, that big arch in the small of your back, which helps you support the weight of a sack of concrete at the front of your belly. After delivery, it takes time to re-tighten and strengthen them. Unfortunately, instead of resting, you now spend 24/7 bending over to lift a 10-pound baby out of cribs and car seats. Take care of your back; you only get one.”

The joint pain as you’ve by now realized is totally normal.  I found that using Arnica gel/ointment topically really helped me.  Be careful of course not to overdue it if you are breastfeeding.  Though I don’t think in small amounts topically there is any harm.  Do not apply it on your breast or anywhere your baby may ingest it.  It is best to apply when they begin their nap, then you have plenty of time to wash your hands and let it soak in before having to touch your baby again.  Arnica doesn’t typically have any smell if you are using an all-natural product with no added scents.  It is always best not to use scented products around infants.

It is very important to do some gentle exercise six weeks after delivery.  Most doctors recommend waiting six weeks before beginning exercise-so check with your Doctor before beginning any program.   Sarah Picot’s postnatal pilates is excellent .  She incorporates all the exercises so you can do them with your baby.  I find it really effective.  It’s only about 30 min long.  I also recommend Lynne Robynson’s pilates videos.  She explains the effects of pregnancy on our bodies and the altering of our alignment very well.

In most cases many women claim that after a while this pain goes away but that it can take up to a year.   By engaging your muscles more consciously you will support your joints better.  When we are really tired (like taking care of a newborn) we tend to hang on our joints with our tired muscles and over-exploit them.  Also, wrist pain and foot pain are very common at this time.  Try some stretches to alleviate pain in these areas.  I have helpful ones in my articles entitled, 10 exercises and stretches to do while at the office and A sensible exercise to relieve foot pain. I agree with Dr. Moore’s advice, “Take care of your back, you only get one.”  Be patient but pro-active in your healing.  It’ll pay off when your baby gets bigger and you need your muscles fully engaged to carry her.

As with any information here or on the web, it is not a substitute for any true medical advise.  Please consult your doctor when you are in pain.

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26 Thoughts on “Postpartum joint pain

  1. Pingback: Postpartum joint pain Sensible living | Joint Pain Relief

  2. Debbie on August 9, 2009 at 8:23 pm said:

    I too have been experiencing severe joint pain since I had my baby almost one year ago. Very severe in my elbows. My wrists, back, knees, and ankles just kill me. It is really painful. I have had 2 C-sections and the pain in tiring and unmotivating. I am awakened out of my sleep with this pain too. Don’t know what to do. Have wondered if it is hormone related. I did not have this while pregnant but it feels like it is getting progressively worse and I am almost 1 year postpartum. Very frustrating. I feel like my doctor does not believe me and that I am brushed off when I try to discuss my complaint.

  3. I’m sorry to hear of your pain and also of your feeling that your doctor’s brushing you off when you discuss your discomfort. Maybe try to find a second opinion and hopefully find the right answer. I hope you find a clear solution soon. Kathleen

  4. I too have been feeling severe joint pain, in my hips, knees and ankles. It is so frustrating, any small amount of exercise and about four hours later I am in some pain. I often ice or add heat, take Ibprofen and tylenol but nothing seems to help. I am scared it is something long term (RA)?

  5. I just had my third child. I had this joint pain, specifically in my ankles and feet with my first two pregnancies. It is not repeating itself. The good news for first time moms: It will eventually subside. Just hang in there and it will be gone within a few months, though it seems permanent now

  6. Diane’s words of encouragement are very true for many of us. I’m glad we can use the web to share our similar experience and to realize that postpartum joint pain is very common. I do want to emphasize that in no way is information on the web a substitute for medical advise or treatment. Please give your Doctor a call if you are in any kind of pain or have any specific questions or concerns.

    In response to Amy’s post: I hope you are feeling better and I would definitely consult a doctor at this stage of your issue. Please let us know how you are feeling.

  7. Caroline on August 28, 2009 at 12:06 pm said:

    I have a 10 month old baby and I too have been suffering from postpartum joint pain and like Amy most notably in my hips, knees and feet. When I get out of bed on a morning I hobble like an old lady! I am still nursing a little bit (although trying to wean at the moment). My family medical history includes both RA and Osteophoroses and I do worry about both of those. I still feel completely exhausted and not at all recovered after pregnancy and birth. My daughter still does not sleep through the night and only has short naps in the day. I live in a different country to my family and close friends so have not had any help or time to heal (my husband works 6+ days per week) – so I think deep down my problem is probably a simple case of fatigue. However I am going to ask my GP to do some routine blood tests next time I go. I am very interested to read other posts relating to this and similar problems.

  8. Hi Caroline,
    Sounds like you are going through a lot and I am very empathetic to the fact that you are going through a lot of this on your own. It seems many of us in this day and age live far away from our families and are missing the kind of support that comes with living near them. I am glad you are planning to tell your Doctor of your physical issues and plan on having some routine blood work done. It is always a good idea to have regular physicals and blood work done anyway. It sounds too like you need to keep your spirit up. You may want to speak to your Doctor about how much exercise etc. you are able to do. Gentle walking is recommended and physical movement is a great aid in combating depression. I know it is difficult with a baby but there are things you can do with them that are very helpful (i.e. walking, gentle stretching on the floor etc.) If it is too painful with your current joint pain than of course don’t do it. Some people find there pain comes and goes throughout the day.
    You may also reach out to other moms in your neighborhood to have a bit of comradeship. It is very comforting to know you are not the only one going through something and laughter can be best medicine. I hope this helps. Please let us know how it is going. I hope you feel better soon. Kathleen
    Kathleen

  9. Amy, Kathleen,

    I have a 6 month old an a 4 year old. After both births, I have had joint pains especially in my hips, knees and generally don’t feel like my body’s working as it should. It took over a year after the first birth to recover, went to a physiotherapist which provided some relief but was not a satisfying experience. This time, I am seeing a chiropractor with experience in treating new mums, anddoing pilates to strengthen and recover flexibility after years of no exercise. I find the chiropractic treatment especially a great relief because my chiropractor explains why I feel all this and how he fixes it. With looser ligaments and lots of bending over etc plus no time to rest and exercise, our spines and hips are prone to going out of shape and then our muscles have to work harder to try to compensate, making matters worse as it saps energy and makes us stiff. Chiropractic treatment can’t cure the loose ligaments, but it can help realign the skeletal structure and provide advice how to minimise further damage by stretching and doing repetitive tasks with baby in a more ergonomic way. Hang in there.

    Ainun

  10. Hi Ladies!
    Thanks for this post, I do remember the joint pain I had when my daughter was just born (plus the months after!).
    I did not know EFT back then, did any of you try EFT on it? IF you don’t know what it is: it’s a acupressure-like technique, and it helped me a lot with my low back pain. It was always there, and it’s gone now. On the main EFT website emofree there are lots of free goodies: free manual, videos, testimonials, articles etc. Have a look, and I’m really interested if it works on the post partum joint pain as well.

    Charlotte

  11. Catherine on November 25, 2009 at 2:49 pm said:

    Hi Debbie
    I feel the same. I thought I was imagining it first. It started with severe pain in the ankles when I got up in the morning. Then it got to the stage that I would b hanging on to the banister onthe way down the stairs afraid I would fall with the baby. Now its also in my wrists and knees.. My baby is 8 months old. I mentioned it to the doctor and he explained its fluid retention after having a baby…

  12. I have had all sorts of strange symptoms after giving birth, joint pain amongst them. I found that after a few weeks these things subsided and then went away altogether as my body got itself back to normal.

  13. seema on July 6, 2010 at 9:29 am said:

    I have a 5 week old baby.I have dull pain in my wrists which i initially thought was pain due to strain while carrying my baby…but now i seem to ache in many joints…wrists,elbows,knee,ankle etc.
    my doc has asked me to see an immunologist to rule out rheumatoid arthritis.please pray for me…hope I don’t have this dreadful problem…will keep all posted…

  14. Dana on July 19, 2010 at 2:25 pm said:

    Hi Guys. I was having the same pains. They started about three months post partum. I had my general practioner do a blood test for rheumatoid factor. It was 380 and it should be less than 14! Needless to say, I have rheumatoid arthritis…I believe it was from the pregnancy. Please get checked if you have symtoms as they have good treatments to stop the disease progression if you have it.
    Dana

  15. Thank you ladies for posting. I too have been experiencing this pain and I am 6 months postpartum. I experienced it after my first pregnancy too and went for a variety of tests. I specifically remember at 6 months feeling as if there must be something really wrong with me because the joint pain was so severe. I can truly related to feeling like I walk like a 90 year old. Now again at 6 months postpartum, I started doubting that this was what I felt the first time and maybe I should go and get the Rheumotoid and fibromyalgia tests again, and then my mind starts thinking bone cancer or something worse. It can be incredibly scary. I am so grateful for all of you who have posted because it reminds me that it did go away and how scary it can be because my doctors seemed to have not heard of this before. I am going to try a chiropractor because I think that may be able to provide some relief.

  16. Hi Seema,
    Did you find out what was wrong? I’m having similar issues at ~ 6 mos postpartum, i.e. joint pain all over. I went gluten-free a few weeks ago and found that my symptoms nearly went away. However, I’ve recently been experiencing severe back pain.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Pam

  17. Eileen on June 6, 2011 at 11:55 am said:

    I am too still experiencing the stiff hands and sore 80 year old feet! Any updates anyone has regarding this would be appreciated! I am looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks!!

  18. Edith on July 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm said:

    Hi Everyone,
    I’m also having these horrible pains! It’s been about six weeks since I had my baby boy, and these pains started about 2 weeks ago – horrible feet pain, then ankles, wrists, hands, fingers, shoulders, neck, even some strange pain in the ears! I mentioned this to my doc, he said it’s probably due to post-partum hormonal inbalance… now I started doing some research on it online and found this forum – interesting to see that other women had/have similar experiences – please post any feedback, updates or any news, whether good or bad – anything that brings relief??? Or how long before this nasty pain goes away… I hope soon… hard to care for a newborn if you can hardly stand on your feet and barely lift a cup of badly needed coffee :-(… Thanks for sharing everyone!

  19. I experienced joint pain about six weeks after by baby boy was born, I am now 12 weeks pp and I am in so much pain. My knee joints hurt so bad I have a hard time walking up or down stairs and getting up with the baby after sitting is terrible. I use anything I can for support. My feet to my toes hurt terribly as well. My fingers, hands and wrists have pain on occasion as well. I am going to an NP this week, I will post an update. Thank you everyone for sharing, I have been so worried I can barely function.

  20. Ursula on January 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm said:

    Ive got a six month old babe and got the same problem. been to the doctor took some blood and told me that nothing is wrong, but the pain is still there, i think i will go for a second opinion. the pain is driving me crasy.

  21. Hi everyone, I am also experiencing severe pain in my hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and occasionally my hips and knees. Baby is now 7 weeks and it seems to be getting worse. I did 2 rounds of antibiotics after birth since I did have a chest infection and they thought it was the infection settling in my joints, however I am no longer sick and the pain is still here. Going to my dr. tomorrow to get the referral to the rheumatologist, and will also be seeing my OB the day after that. I will let you all know if either of them have any explanations. In the meantime I will be starting my gluten free diet and vitamin regimen this week to see if I can get any relief. It is getting very discouraging trying to lift baby at night, and to get anything done during the day when the pain is so unbearable. Keep sharing, it really helps to know I’m not alone 🙂

  22. I posted on 9/6/2011 regarding my join pain. It is now 1/18/2012, I am now 7.5 months post partum and I still have the joint PAIN. It was determined that I have a thyroid issue and I am now on Armor. However, this is not relieving the pain. I have also been gluten/wheat free since mid November. I do feel a bit better not as tired and weak as I was. My body has really become sensitive since I had my baby. I ate a non organic steak last week and it hit me so hard and my joint pain really flared up. This has to be a reaction to hormones or antibiotics in the beef. After all this I am beginning to think this is a reaction to drugs that you are given during child birth and the toxicity settles into your joints and poisons your blood and causes your body to be off balance at a cellular level. Which causes your thyroid to go crazy (auto thyroidism, autoimmune disease). I have tried every supplement I can find, I found a product called ASEA this week and tried 2 oz and I feel a little better. I keep thinking that it could be a placebo effect and that I am just desperate. This cannot be taken while breastfeeding, unfortunately I have been so sick that I dried up after two months. That is even while attempting to breastfeed every 45 minutes. I will continue to post on my progress.

  23. Diana on March 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm said:

    Progesterone!!!! I went to see a intergrative medicine doc (trained at Mayo) and he perscribed wild yam progesterone and for the last two months I’ve been almost completely joint-stiffness FREE!!! Love it!! My daughter is 20 months and while most of the stiffness (severe ankle, hands, thumbs, hip etc) went away, I still had hip stiffness. After meeting with Dr Dole at Dakota Medical in Minneapolis, he prescribed progesterone and my hip stiffness is almost completely gone – a little bit remains as my time of the month is approaching. I wanted to share to every group I see who is experiences this!!

  24. Denise on April 10, 2012 at 2:58 am said:

    I too am experiencing horrible joint pain in my hands and knees. Is anyone on any kind of birth control? I had my daughter 14 months ago and still feel Sooo old. I’m only 22. Could it be my iud causing this?

  25. Lyneve on October 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm said:

    Denise, YES, it Could be your IUD. That’s what I looked for first online, incidence of joint pain with Mirena – and there is A LOT out there about that. Or it could be the body’s reaction to stress, or.our body dealing with the hormone “relaxin”, severe lack of sleep, PRE-EXISTING problems, underlying undiagnosed autoimmune disorder (such as RA, which I’m afraid of), etc. There is also some info out there about estrogen being behind some of this. There is a link between RA and endometriosis. Our hormones are out of whack during pregnancy and start to balance out several weeks pp which is when most of us seem to be starting with these symptoms. Maybe the hormone fluctuation initiates an autoimmune response, which may lead to other disorders?

    I do have an iud, Mirena to be exact, BUT my pain started with my feet, I was limping 4 weeks pp, BEFORE iud placement. I have injured my back in the past; its always sore. My knees have bothered me in the past alittle here and there, but not like now. My hands/fingers are sore & stiff, and my thumb locks up. My dtr is not sleeping through the night at all yet, 4mo old, and up a lot still, so losing sleep could be a factor for me.

    Angela, I’m not sure the meds used in hospitals for many years could be the culprit. However, it begs the question: how many of you have joint pain pp AND had an epidural?

    As for relief, I don’t fully believe in dietary changes to solve medical issues, may help if you have a food sensitivity, but my son has ADHD and we tried diet diaries and modifications, nothing really worked . One site I saw mentioned vitamin D/calcium supplements & said it helped; I will give it a try. Diana, be careful with Progesterone replacement/treating: it can increase risk of certain types of cancer; but hay he trained at Mayo,… others mention accupuncture, chiropractors, oils – couldn’thurt. I definately will try the vitamins & maybe alternative therapies; going for extensive bloodwork and XRays to r/o RA soon per family dr orders. I hope these less harmful treatments do help because RA tx aren’t so peachy

  26. Sarah Drake on November 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm said:

    I had the same and ankles were agony could hardly get out of bed. Sometimes they would give way! So I started taking vitamin D supplement as DD is 6 months, I can’t b in pain forever! Within a few days I feel wonderful! Can move fine and no pain. Can carry my DD around no problems, a lot of people with joint pain have vit d deficiency. And after having a child our body’s often lack what’s needed. Best of luck ladies xx

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