Is Postpartum Causing My Aches And Pains?

Congratulations! You have brought a new life into the world. But don’t panic if there’s postpartum pain still nagging at you. It’s completely normal to feel postpartum aches and pains. Here’s what you need to know. 

As a mother, your life is about to change. There will be difficulties, challenges, and hurdles – but these all combine and bring so much joy and happiness.

Parenthood is something to cherish – if only you could get rid of that lingering pain… 

Of course, it’s normal to experience pain in your body after giving birth. The birthing process is one where your body goes through intense strain to accommodate the initial growth of your child, and a whole host of physical changes accompany impending motherhood. 

However, most pregnant women fully expect pregnancy-related pain to dissolve after birth has taken place.

Yet, it is perfectly normal and very common to experience pain in various parts of your body in the immediate stages of postpartum. 

This persisting pain comes from the burdens that your muscles and joints absorb throughout contractions. These contractions can be severe enough to create a lasting impact, causing aches and pains months post-delivery. 

Complaints about lower back pain are the most common, which won’t come as a surprise. Your lower back takes enormous extra pressure throughout pregnancy, and continues to take the strain throughout labor contractions. 

Headaches, knee pain, stiffness, shoulder pain, and discomfort in your hip, are also very common. Tingling sensations in your hands and wrists are often reported, too. 

But what about the less reported pain problems that accompany postpartum? 

Let’s take a look.

Before We Continue…

It is generally considered time to seek medical attention if your postpartum pains are still present after your sixth consecutive postpartum week. Should the pain still dictate your daily life by this point, your MD may prescribe prescription drugs or painkillers, but we wouldn’t suggest relying solely on these pills. 

No. There are other ways to help manage and control your discomfort, including Physical Therapy. 

That’s where we come in. 

As qualified and experienced physical therapists, we don’t just generalize your pain and jump in with the same treatments for everyone. We take the time to learn about your uniqueness (after all, we are all different!), alongside your situation, and craft a bespoke treatment package. All this effort ensures that you get back on your feet as quickly as possible. 

And, with that, let’s explore some of the aspects that we can help with relating to postpartum pain. 

Postpartum Breast Pain

One of the biggest changes that comes with the postpartum time frame involves your chest. 

After giving birth, your breasts may grow larger and become tender. According to various studies, new Moms usually experience onset lactation, engorgement (due to storage of excess milk), or ‘let down’ within a 24-72 hour period. 

Your breasts may increase cup size, develop a hardness and ‘feel warm’, alongside experiencing postpartum breast pain. Some women suffer a light fever during this time.

Once you begin to breastfeed your newborn, your breast pain should dwindle and become less swollen. The hardness will also lessen, and the engorgement will become less profound as breastfeeding continues. 

If you don’t breastfeed your baby very often, or choose not to engage with breastfeeding at all, then your breasts will remain engorged and hard. 

The solution? We’d recommend nursing on a regular basis. Breastfeeding doesn’t just benefit your newborn child, but it also provides relief for painful/engorged breasts – making them less swollen, and returning to their previous state. 

During the immediate postpartum, consider breastfeeding between every 3-4 hours. Women’s health specialists recommend nursing your baby somewhere near a dozen times a day

Should you opt not to breastfeed, you can apply cold/ice or heat packs to your breasts. Anti-inflammatory pills can prove useful, as can a well-fitting bra. 

As another option, consider using a breast pump to reduce the swelling and hardening of your breasts. 

Postpartum Abdominal & Pelvic Floor Pain 

Don’t panic if you feel what seems like contractions again! You don’t have anything untoward going on, and you are not a freak of nature. 

It’s perfectly normal to feel activity in your pelvic floor after giving birth, as the uterus works its way back to a pre-pregnancy state; medically referred to as ‘involution’. 

Strange as it may sound, breastfeeding can also bring about abdominal and pelvic floor pain. Intense contractions may occur while nursing due to a hormone known as oxytocin, which is released into the bloodstream. 

This hormone can cause contractions across muscles and assists in helping your uterus contract back into the pre-pregnancy state. 

To counteract this pain, you can increase the frequency in which you breastfeed, utilize breathing techniques to instigate relaxation, and ensure that there’s no pressure on your bladder – by frequently urinating. 

So when is this pain not normal? 

As we’ve mentioned previously in this article, these pains should not last longer than six weeks. If the pain doesn’t dissolve with rest, heat/ice packs, painkillers, and physical therapy sessions/advice, you must seek medical attention. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, get yourself seen to by a medical professional immediately: 

If your stomach pain or abdominal pain is severe, lasts longer than the first six weeks, or doesn’t get better with rest, heat therapy, and over-the-counter medications, it’s essential to get checked over by your doctor. And please seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms: 

  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Bright red, heavy vaginal bleeding 
  • Chest pain or breathlessness
  • Pain, redness, and inflammation around C-Section or Episiotomy scar
  • Unusual discharge from your vagina or rectum

Perineal Tearing 

Ok. This is the part that most women panic about. 

Perineal tearing happens during a ‘normal’ (vaginal) birth, where soft tissue becomes lacerated between the vagina and the anus. These lacerations can vary in terms of severity, but the majority of cases are mild and don’t require much in the way of treatment. 

You just need to let your body recover! 

However, more serious cases can cause chronic pain that lasts an indefinite amount of time. You may need perineal stitching to help the recovery process on its way. 

Besides using heat/ice packs on the area of discomfort, we’d encourage you to wear loose-fitting clothing, and refraining from strenuous exercise and activities. 

Once you can move around more freely, physical therapy can help keep you away from undoing your progress and assist in your recovery.

Postpartum Joint Pain

Hormonal changes can bring about inflammation in your joints, and while joint pain is very, very common (almost inevitable) during pregnancy, postpartum joint pain symptoms can continue this theme and last for long stretches of time. 

Your knees are particularly susceptible. This is due to all that extra weight being carried around when pregnant, but could also be a sign of hyperthyroidism. If that knee pain simply isn’t going away, you should speak with your doctor. 

This joint pain (and associated inflammation) can be tackled with OTC (over-the-counter) anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers. 

If you are breastfeeding, consult with your doctor about the safest pain relief tactics. You don’t want to be mixing painkillers with nursing; for a whole range of health reasons!

How Physical Therapy Can Help 

If you are suffering from any of the issues mentioned in this article – especially joint and muscle pain – then consulting your physical therapist could bring huge benefits to your recovery plan. 

Firstly, you can work alongside a healthcare professional to gain the correct diagnosis for your pain. After all, you cannot target the source of pain if you don’t have that knowledge! 

Secondly, you will have access to advice from experienced physical therapists (PTs) who know all about postpartum pain management. After a physical evaluation and a detailed study of your medical history, your PT will be able to determine which activities and movements are best for you. 

This avoids injury. That’s incredibly important during the recovery of postpartum aches and pains!

When dealing with postpartum abdominal and pelvic floor pain, PTs can administer an exercise plan that starts with low-impact maneuvers aimed at strengthening the lower body and preventing further pain. This can include advice on how to alleviate breast pain. 

Get In Touch With Us! 

Intecore Physical Therapy is formed on two basic principles: Integrity of Care, and Core Rehabilitation values. 

These Core Rehabilitation values utilize the skills of the clinician, and a thorough and individualized rehabilitation program; instead of gadgets and passive treatments.

Our focus is through an extensive physical therapy evaluation, manual therapy techniques, therapeutic exercise, patient education and an individual focus on patient care to successfully return our patients to full function and enhance their quality of life. 

This includes those suffering from postpartum pain. 

Don’t suffer in silence, and don’t feel embarrassed about your issue. We do not judge, we are here to help! 

You can get in touch with us through our contact page, or visit one of our clinics. You can find more information on our clinics through our locations page

We look forward to helping your recovery. Motherhood is something to cherish and enjoy – let’s get you back to health for the full experience. 

Andrew Vertson