Body aches and pains are common during pregnancy.

Muscle and Joint Pains

Almost every pregnant woman will experience varying degrees of musculoskeletal discomfort - particularly during the third trimester - which can range from mild to temporarily disabling.

As you gain weight and your posture changes, there is an increase in force on joints and soft tissues, which can cause musculoskeletal pain. Dealing with this extra force may lead to fatigue in certain joints and soft tissues resulting in irritation and pain.

The most common areas for pain are the low back, pelvis, and sacro-iliac joints. These pains may be aggravated by regular daily activities or prolonged postures such as sitting or lying. Sleep is commonly disturbed when these areas are irritated and inflamed.

It has been suggested that over 30% of pregnant women who suffer from low back pain will continue to have pain after delivery. According to a 2004 report, only 32% of women who suffer from low back pain during pregnancy will report this to their health care provider and only 25% of health care providers will recommend a specific treatment for low back pain during pregnancy. This means that many women are suffering without receiving an assessment or education on how to manage their symptoms, which can lead to functional loss and disability and increased risk of a chronic condition.

How should you manage aches and pains during pregnancy?

The best advice is to seek attention from a qualified health care provider who can provide up to date education and an appropriate treatment plan.

One of the most commonly recommended ways to prevent and manage musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy is to remain active throughout each trimester. Mild to moderate intensity exercise such as walking, aquafit and stretching help maintain joint mobility, muscle flexibility and strength. Exercise duration of 20-60 minutes three to four days per week is a reasonable goal.

There are other services available to treat musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy such as physical therapy and massage therapy. Try to identify practitioners in your area with a special interest in pregnancy. The best advice is to seek early medical attention for musculoskeletal pain to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering.

Information provided by:
Scott Vowles, Registered Physiotherapist

Borg-Stein et al, 2005
Musculoskeletal Aspects of Pregnancy

Ritchie, 2003
Qualitative Research Practice: A Guide for Social Science Students and Researchers