Pain, pain, Go Away!
April 29, 2010 10:09 AM   Subscribe

HEY MOMS--Did you have, or are you suffering from, postpartum joint pain? Find anything helpful to relieve it? I thought I was either a wimp (very likely) or a whiner (not so much, really, I swear!) or that this was all psychosomatic (thanks a lot, brain) Help a girl out one mentioned all this pain was coming.

I went to the doctor, he prescribed physical therapy for my shoulders, but really wasn't interested in this being a postpartum issue. Ugh! Every morning I wake up with a new body ache--knees, hips, shoulders, wrists, fingers. It all seems to be centered on my joints. I haven't found anything about this in my pregnancy books (guess they don't care what happens AFTER the baby comes) I am now uncovering this is common, but not talked about much. I was really, really starting to feel like a massive failure here.

So, any common experiences out there? Did you find anything helped relieve the pain? or that it stopped at a certain point?

A little background: I breastfed for the first 7 weeks, and then returned to work and stopped pumping. BF did not seem to affect the pain. My daughter is now 11 and a half weeks old. I am overweight, exercised while pregnant, gained no weight and have subsequently lost 20 pounds. I now do not exercise frequently. In addition to a newborn, I have some major family stress going on right now (immediate family member just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, had major surgery, started chemo yesterday), so, stress level is understandably elevated.
posted by fyrebelley to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
It's pretty common, actually.

Your hormones are returning to normal (hey, there relaxin!) and your body is trying to figure out its new posture again. Over the course of pregnancy, there are subtle changes in your posture as you adapt to carrying the extra weight of the baby. So whether you feel it or realize it, you may need to retrain your posture a little better.

I, too, needed physical therapy post-partum, though for a different problem. It helped a lot in my case, so I wouldn't hesitate in pursuing that route. A post-partum massage may help, and anything you can do within reason to promote good body health --- core exercises, stretching, sit on a birth or an exercise ball to help engage your abs, eat well and so forth. I imagine taking an ibuprofen here and there could help for immediate pain.

Stay in touch with your doctor, and if you don't like what you're getting, see someone else. I had to see three different doctors post-partum to sort out my issues (second doc referred me to the third who was a specialist).
posted by zizzle at 10:35 AM on April 29, 2010

Although it was a different event than childbirth that brought it out, previously undiagnosed fibromyalgia can be aggravated by trauma to the body. My wife had carpal tunnel surgery and immediately afterward started having lots of aches and pains that did not appear to be related to the surgery. After eliminating several other more serious diagnoses, they finally identified the fibro.

It's probably not fibro in your case, and things will slowly get better. But if they don't, you want to continue to work with your doctor to figure out what's going on so you can get proper treatment.

As I write this, the other thing that occurs to me is that you were carrying the baby in the same place for months; now you are carrying it many other positions including a lot of reaching; this could be aggravating whatever is going on.
posted by Doohickie at 10:47 AM on April 29, 2010

My son is 11 months; it was terrible, terrible joint pain right at first when he was born. I had joint pain all through the pregnancy (literally at implantation my fingers swelled up like cocktail weenies and my knuckles started aching!). It backed off but kinda hung around as mid-level pain for several months. At 11 months it's mostly gone but I don't feel quite "unpregnant" yet joint-wise.

Ibuprofin and time were the best cures. A heating pad helped too; I also often slept with an extra heavy blanket just across my pelvis because my hip joints would get so sore, to keep them warmer at night, and that helped.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:13 AM on April 29, 2010

Oh, I've also heard that a memory foam mattress pad can help -- friends whose beds were just fine before birth sometimes found after birth that the mattress now felt too hard. Some of them get new "toppers" for the bed to make it softer and found that gave them considerable relief, especially if the pain was worst in the morning or on joints they'd slept on. Haven't tried it myself, but another idea.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:15 AM on April 29, 2010

Purely anecdotal -- I once met a physical therapist who told me that she had this very problem herself. It's something to do with everything loosening up in preparation for the birth and then taking a while to harden again. Because she was a physical therapist herself she became interested in this and took extra training to do physical therapy for that exact problem. So probably physical therapy, yes, but perhaps a specialist physical therapist?
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 11:24 AM on April 29, 2010

So probably physical therapy, yes
I should say "physical therapy, maybe" as I don't know enough to know.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 11:25 AM on April 29, 2010

Yes. It happened to me. I think it was several things - how I was hunched over so often, either breastfeeding or rocking or holding the baby. And the tension. And, just everything.

It got better with time, and advil, and regaining my posture.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:55 AM on April 29, 2010

My joints were all really wonky after my son was born. My wrists especially would go dead, and I had to wear wrist supports all morning until they "woke up". This is how I took up yoga. Nothing appealed to my non-athletic self less than yoga prior to this, but my friend (also a new mom) was going to try it out, so I went along. My god, was it wonderful. I could feel my joints and muscles, and cartilages, and ligaments all popping and clicking and stretching, and coming back to normal. It was soooo great. I'm still at it nine years later.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:03 PM on April 29, 2010

Yeah, I've been thinking that yoga might be a good idea. Seems like general muscle strengthening could help. There are a few caveats with that--like finding the time for it. (which I should do if I want to feel better, yes, yes, yes) AND I am super duper immature. If I do this in a group, I am positive I will laugh, because I will be focused on NOT laughing, which will then make me really have to laugh. I have a wii Fit, anyone use that for yoga? Or, perhaps there are some yoga dvd's I could try?
posted by fyrebelley at 12:35 PM on April 29, 2010

There are great at-home yoga DVDs (one I particularly like is MTV yoga, but it's fairly strenuous -- downward-facing dog is the resting position; there's a yoga-for-dummies DVD too which is decent), but there's also tons and tons and tons of online streaming video yoga routines to try out! I suppose it depends a little on where you can locate your computer (or if you can youtube on your Wii!), but you could try some of those before committing to spend money.

One of my friends likes Wii Fit yoga; another is not a fan. The former prefers to yoga by herself; the latter prefers classes. I haven't tried it on the Wii myself!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:42 PM on April 29, 2010

There is a place near me that offers Post-Natal yoga, for moms & babies. The atmosphere is very relaxed, so if you laughed it would be totally ok. I go to the prenatal classes, and often find myself chuckling. See if you can find a place like that, and you won't have to worry about babysitting while you're at class.
posted by nprigoda at 12:47 PM on April 29, 2010

I went to a weekend early morning class. Breast fed the baby, left him in bed with my husband, and got back in lots of time for the next feed and the whole coffee & newpaper thing with hubby. The early morning thing sounds counter-intuitive at first, but it was perfect.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:25 PM on April 29, 2010

Note that if you have postpartum pain in your wrist, right where your thumb meets your hand, there is a specific name for this: De Quervain Syndrome. It is often mistaken for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which can also flare up during pregnancy. De Quervain Syndrome is somehow correlated with the hormones that are in your system while you are pregnant and/or lactating, and while it's painful and annoying, it goes away pretty much as soon as you quit breastfeeding.

(Ask me how I know.)
posted by Asparagirl at 4:59 PM on April 29, 2010

I hope that the above suggestions work for you, but I also have to jump into any Askmetafilter question about joint pain and suggest that it could be something like Rheumatoid Arthritis.

There are parts to your question that point in that direction. The pain in so many different joints, pain in the morning. There are also a lot of reports that RA first flares up during stressful periods. Mine was diagnosed when my second child was 7 months old and breastfeeding, and we had some major stress when my husband's job burned down while we were in the process of buying a house. But I look back over the years prior to that and wonder if the RA was slowly building up, but then going into remission during my pregnancies.

Good luck!
posted by saffry at 5:43 PM on April 29, 2010

y6t5r4e3w2q1 had it right: during pregnancy, hormones work to loosen up your ligaments so that the pubic symphysis can stretch during childbirth. This is the huge chunk of cartilage that connects your pelvic bones at the bottom.

Unfortunately, the body cannot selectively loosen a ligament, so all of your joints are affected. Now that pregnancy is over, hormone levels are returning to normal and your ligaments will harden again to their normal state. In the meantime, ow.

My second daughter is 5 months old now. I'm feeling pretty good. I'd say if you're still feeling this bad when your baby is 4 months old, then something may be wrong. Until then, I'd feel comfortable just taking Aleve or ibuprofen. But that's me.
posted by wwartorff at 6:08 PM on April 29, 2010

I had terrible joint pain after my first was born. It lasted almost exactly nine months. I had two months of no pain then found out I was pregnant again. Whoops. The process duplicated with my second, except without the pregnancy. But it lasted exactly nine months again. Mine was hips and shoulders. No surprise, your body is moving back from a helluva lot of strain. My doc told me that it was pretty typical. For me, exercise, yoga, stretching, nothing really helped. I took tylenol and used a warm pack and waited. Good luck and congrats on the new baby.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:56 PM on April 29, 2010

I was in immense pain for a long time after birth but it was mostly in my pelvis, back and legs. We suspected all the usual pelvic distortions but it was actually an underlying back issue that meant my loosening joints were being pulled apart by overly tight muscles which were also affecting my nerves and ligaments. It took a bunch of physical therapy but I'm mostly okay now - I need a bit of a tune up since holidays with no stretching, way too long holding baby anachronism and too little exercise have made me take a few steps back.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:50 PM on April 29, 2010

A month later...I am feeling much better!

A few things that seem to have worked for me:

1. Ace Bandages
As ThatCanadianGirl suggested, I started wearing ace bandages on my wrists at night. I toss and turn a lot at night and would inadvertently jar my wrists, wearing an ace bandage helped hold my wrists in place, and helped me pick my daughter up in the middle of night with minimal pain.

2. Hydration
I noted that if I did not consume at least 64 ounces of water in a day, or I drank something that dehydrated me (lemonade, alcohol), my joints would be worse the next day. Drinking more water made a big difference for me.

3. Glucosamine
No one here suggested it, but my aunt had similar pain after childbirth and suggested I give it a try. Since I am feeling better I have stopped taking it. Not sure if it played a role in my feeling better, or if the other steps above helped. I don't really want to take a supplement for the rest of my life, so I'm hoping I can cut it out now.

4. Movement
More movement equals less stiffness for me. I did go to physical therapy once (things got too crazy with my family illness to make it more often) and would use the exercises they taught me there whenever I started to feel my shoulders flare up.

Thank you so much everyone for sharing what worked for you. I was really feeling down about the pain and needed to know it was normal, and would go away! I'm not 100% pain free, but now I have some strategies to help manage and deal with the pain.
posted by fyrebelley at 9:33 AM on June 1, 2010

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