Enlarged breasts are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. The weight of growing breasts can result in gradual rounding of your shoulders. Rounded shoulders increase the pressure on the base of your neck and can lead to a “forward head posture”. Your head should be on top of your neck like a golf ball on a tee. A forward head posture means that your skull is protruding forward, changing the normal alignment of your neck. Your neck muscles and joints then have to work much harder to support the weight of your head, to prevent your chin dropping onto your chest. Over weeks or months, this can lead to strain of the neck muscles and joints, pain, tension headaches and even shoulder and upper spine pain.
If you have a history of neck pain, this posture can flare up old symptoms. Women with a habit of slouching, who work in sitting based jobs, and who drive long distances may be more at risk.
- Ice or heat can be used to ease neck pain:
- Using ice packs on the neck will prevent swelling and reduce pain when you suffer a sudden, sharp bout. Always wrap ice in a cloth to protect your skin.
- For aching neck pain that gets worse as the day goes on, applying heat can help soothe and relax the neck muscles.
- Do not use too many pillows in bed. Pillows should be used to support your curves, not to increase them.
- If you have neck pain for longer than 4 days, see your Chartered Physiotherapist, who is used to treating pregnant women.
- Headaches and pins and needles associated with your neck pain should be reported ASAP.
- If you have a forward head posture, you may feel a bump at the base of your neck which needs to be addressed.
- Postural exercises and gentle strengthening work can be done to help ease neck pain, but get a safe programme specific to your posture, your history and your pain. Your friend's exercises from when she was pregnant will not be suitable for you.