7 Causes Of Stiff Neck and Neck Pain During Pregnancy

Stiff neck and neck pain is a common occurrence, especially for many moms-to-be.

For some, it’s super uncomfortable, while for others, it might only come to light during a prenatal massage.

In either case, why does this happen? The added weight of pregnancy and hormonal fluctuations play a major role in this discomfort. It’s all part of your body’s amazing transformation.

Professional help can make a significant difference, especially if you’ve tried other options with little relief. Specialists like chiropractors and physiotherapists understand the unique challenges of pregnancy and can provide safe, effective treatments to ease your discomfort. 

Their support can be invaluable in making your pregnancy journey more comfortable and enjoyable.

7 Causes Of Neck Pain Or Stiffness

Remember, every woman’s body and pregnancy experience is distinct. So, it’s completely normal to deal with discomfort at different times. You might hear about some women who only begin to experience pain in the third trimester, while others might start feeling neck and shoulder pain right from the first month.

#1. Perils of Posture 

Bending over phones and computers is common, leading to a hunched posture that strains the neck and back. During pregnancy, the added physical stress can intensify this strain, making it more pronounced and painful.1

#2. Spinal Shift

The growing baby adds weight and changes the spine’s natural curvature. This shift forces neck muscles to compensate, leading to overuse and discomfort. This often unnoticed change in spinal alignment can be a significant source of neck pain during pregnancy. 1

#3. When Life Happens

As the pregnancy progresses, the growing belly requires changes in movement, even for everyday tasks. This new way of moving can strain muscles not used to such activities, leading to neck aches as the body adjusts to its new shape and weight distribution.2

#4. Too Much, Too Soon

Exercises and movements that were easy before pregnancy can become more challenging and strain the body, including the neck area. This overexertion, particularly common in early pregnancy, can lead to neck pain as the body is pushed beyond its new limits. 3

#5. Skipping The Stretch

Skipping regular physical activity may make muscles weaker and tighter, often leading to a stiff neck in pregnancy.1

#6. The Gravity of Growth

The growing baby bump changes the body’s center of gravity, leading to adjustments in posture. This can put new strains on the body, including the neck, as it adapts to the changing weight distribution. 1

#7. Hormonal Shifts

Pregnancy hormones, particularly relaxin and progesterone, loosen joints and ligaments in preparation for childbirth. While beneficial for delivery, this increased flexibility can lead to muscle aches and pains in areas like the neck​.4

When Neck Pain or Stiffness in Pregnancy Might Require Immediate Medical Attention

During pregnancy, being aware of your body’s signals is helpful, as they can sometimes indicate the need for extra care. 

Mild neck and shoulder discomfort aren’t uncommon, but if you experience unusual or persistent pain in these areas, it might be a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider. 

For instance, while rare, neck and shoulder pain can occasionally suggest conditions like ectopic pregnancy, especially in the early weeks. 

Recognizing this early can be beneficial for your health. It’s always a good idea to share any concerns with your doctor, who can provide guidance and reassurance.5

Preeclampsia, another condition that can present with similar discomfort, is also something to be mindful of. 

It’s rare, but being informed helps you stay on top of your health during pregnancy. Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help monitor for any signs. 6

Lastly, it’s good to be aware that infections like meningitis can cause neck pain, though this is rare. 

Staying informed about such symptoms allows you to seek advice or assistance on time, keeping you and your baby safe and healthy. 7

4 Simple Tips To Manage Stiff Neck or Neck Pain Naturally

Practice Proper Posture

Alleviating neck discomfort can often start with good posture. Whether sitting, standing, working, or even sleeping, maintaining a straight alignment in your shoulders and lower back can significantly benefit your spinal health. 1

Use Heat or Ice Packs

Alternating between warm and cold compresses can effectively reduce neck pain and stiffness. Remember to use a protective layer between the compress and your skin to prevent irritation or burns. 1

Utilize a Pregnancy Pillow

Specialized pregnancy pillows are a great aid. These pillows are designed to accommodate the shape of your growing belly, providing support for your neck, back, knees, and hips, and easing joint pressure. 1

Engage in Gentle Movement and Exercises

Keeping active is key. Even minimal movement is better than none. During pregnancy, gentle exercises can help keep your muscles flexible and provide overall relaxation. Always opt for pregnancy-safe activities and exercises, focusing on safety and comfort. 1

Seek Expert Guidance for Neck Pain During Pregnancy at the Centre for Health and Performance

While the tips provided help manage neck pain during pregnancy, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Pregnancy brings numerous changes to a woman’s body, often including neck pain, but this doesn’t mean you have to endure discomfort throughout this special time.

At the Centre for Health and Performance, we encourage expectant mothers to consult with our qualified professionals. Our team includes licensed chiropractors and physiotherapists who specialize in prenatal care. They can expertly adjust misaligned joints, providing relief from neck pain. 

Additionally, many pregnant individuals have found massage therapy to be effective in alleviating neck and back pain. 

Visiting a professional at our Centre ensures you receive personalized care tailored to your specific needs during pregnancy.


  • Sarkar, P. K., Singh, P., Dhillon, M. S., Bhattacharya, S., & Singh, A. (2022). Postural deviation in pregnancy: A significant debilitating balance problem which can be rectified by physiotherapeutic intervention. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 11(7), 3717–3725. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_1807_21
  • Pascual ZN, Langaker MD. Physiology, Pregnancy. [Updated 2023 May 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559304/
  • Stickler, K., & Kearns, G. (2023). Spinal manipulation and adverse event reporting in the pregnant patient limits estimation of relative risk: a narrative review. The Journal of manual & manipulative therapy, 31(3), 162–173. https://doi.org/10.1080/10669817.2022.2118653
  • Dehghan, F., Haerian, B. S., Muniandy, S., Yusof, A., Dragoo, J. L., & Salleh, N. (2014). The effect of relaxin on the musculoskeletal system. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 24(4), e220–e229. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12149
  • Mummert T, Gnugnoli DM. Ectopic Pregnancy. [Updated 2023 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539860/
  • Miller, E. C., & Vollbracht, S. (2021). Neurology of Preeclampsia and Related Disorders: an Update in Neuro-obstetrics. Current pain and headache reports, 25(6), 40. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-021-00958-z
  • Landrum, L. M., Hawkins, A., & Goodman, J. R. (2009). Pneumococcal meningitis during pregnancy: a case report and review of literature. Infectious diseases in obstetrics and gynecology, 2009, 63624. https://doi.org/10.1155/2007/63624

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