Shoulder Pain While Pregnant – Different Pain For Different Trimesters

Shoulder pain while pregnant is not often a problem. It occurs mostly due to changes in the muscles, joints, and connective tissue. There are some minor causes that make shoulder pain worse but they are fairly easy to alleviate once you recognize them. The usual feeling of shoulder pain is a dull, achy, stiff sensation. Let’s have a look at the most common causes.

Causes of Shoulder Pain During Pregnancy

Some of the most common causes are:

  1. sleeping on your shoulder for too long at a time
  2. standing too long [this can also affect your lower back]
  3. straining your back can affect the shoulder because the 2 are closely connected;
  4. not having good posture [even before pregnancy]

Shoulder Pain at Different Stages of Pregnancy

1st Trimester [see below if your body pain is intense]

Your body makes a hormone called relaxin that helps your body grow and change for the little one. Relaxin loosens connective tissue so that your body can expand – and that can create aches and pains. Shoulder pain while pregnant falls into this category.

2nd Trimester

As your baby grows, so do you in order to provide for the baby; you start to “show” and gain weight for a healthy pregnancy. But those changes start to effect how you stand, sit, sleep and walk. In fact, a small study showed that women in their 2nd trimester had a slower walking speed – nothing special about that, but these changes do effect the muscles in your body. This can make changes in your shoulders that can hurt.

3rd Trimester

With even more changes now, the lower back is carrying a lot of the extra weight. The spine changes into what’s called an “S” curve – that includes the low back as it is more curved. This shift in structure has a ripple affect and can affect shoulder pain while pregnant.  Again, muscles and connective tissue are stretched for good reason.

More SERIOUS Shoulder Pain While Pregnant

1st Trimester

If you feel a sudden or strange pain between your shoulder and arm, you may have a condition called ectopic [or tubal] pregnancy. It’s not very common but is important to investigate due to its possible severity. See the heading below called, “If your body pain is intense.” 

It may seem odd that you get shoulder pain from this kind of pregnancy but it does happen, though infrequently. I had a client who had ectopic pregnancy and luckily, she was revived on the operating table at the ER and survived with no future complications!

2nd + 3rd Trimesters

Gallstones: although rare, it is possible to have gallstones. They may not be an issue until they get stuck in the duct or tube of your gall bladder. The pain can be intense. Preeclampsia: this serious condition is brought on by high blood pressure alongside other conditions. It usually occurs after week 20 but can be before or after delivery.  

If Your Body Pain is Intense:

If you have intense body pain anywhere in your body, it’s not likely but possible that your fertilized egg is somewhere other than the uterus, somewhere else in the abdominal cavity. This is called an ectopic pregnancy and can be a medical emergency – you should get help immediately.

Prompt treatment of ectopic pregnancy reduces your risk of complications, increases your chances for future, healthy pregnancies, and reduces future health complications. Be sure to read this article if you think you may have an ectopic pregnancy:

Relief of Shoulder Pain while Pregnant

Massage is 1 of the best ways to quickly and effectively reduce shoulder pain! Therapeutic bodywork is also very relaxing if you get the right practitioner who is skilled and knows pregnancy massage [like, what to be cautious about]. I offer bodywork with your clothes on so you can relax and be comfortable. Check out my website and Yelp reviews

Here are a few tricks/tips you can do yourself, for relief of normal aches and pains:

  1. stretching – this is a great way to find relief. But, be sure to stretch slowly by don’t overdoing it, you certainly don’t want to stretch too far. Just go slowly for a more thorough, effective stretch. Remember that your connective tissues are already stretched a bit due to the hormone relaxin.
  2. warm baths!! This is a great way to feel wonderful and get pain relief.
  3. warm or cold compresses
  4. if the pain gets bad enough, you can ask your healthcare provider about pain meds that are safe during pregnancy
  5. posture support.This can be while sitting or sleeping. Since sleeping can be a big source of shoulder pain while pregnant, here’s a good article to read that includes whether side sleeping is better on your left or your right: Sleeping Positions in Pregnancy

When to Call your Healthcare Professional    

You should always contact your healthcare professional if you have an unusual, new, or strange symptom! Maybe it’s nothing but maybe it is – so make the call if needed! If you think you might have an ectopic pregnancy or preeclampsia, get hold of someone immediately – especially if you have nausea or vomiting.

In Summary

Most pregnancies don’t have major complications so don’t be alarmed by all the details in this blog – they are just to keep you informed in case. You know your body better than anyone else! But, it is common to have shoulder pain while pregnant as long as it’s merely dull and achy. And, you can always get in touch with me for advice or an appointment. You can use my contact form at

Also, read Shoulder Pain From Sleeping