416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday - Friday 7am - 8pm

416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-8pm

Breastfeeding Woes: Back Pain, Neck Pain, Headaches and Sore Thumbs

Published by Better Health Osteopathy on 12 June 2023, Back PainHeadachesNeck PainPregnancy

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential bonding experience between a mother and her infant. It is also well documented that breastfeeding offers numerous benefits for both infants and mothers, both in the short term and long term.  However, the physical demands of breastfeeding can sometimes lead to discomfort and pain for mothers.

Back pain, neck pain, headaches, and even conditions like “mommy thumb” (De Quervain’s tenosynovitis) can arise due to poor posture, repetitive movements, and strain on the musculoskeletal system. This article will explore these conditions and their causes and provide ten helpful tips for mothers to avoid back pain while breastfeeding. Additionally, we will shed light on how an Osteopath can play a crucial role in helping breastfeeding mothers to manage and alleviate their pain.

Common Painful Conditions Associated With Breastfeeding

  1. Back Pain: Mothers may experience localised or radiating pain in the upper, mid, or lower back. This can range from a dull ache to sharp, burning sensations. There may be associated nerve symptoms in the legs and feet, which happens when you have an inflamed disc in your lower back.
  2. Neck Pain: Neck pain is very common in breastfeeding mothers. Straining the neck to support the baby’s weight during breastfeeding can result in neck stiffness, soreness, or pain.
  3. Headaches: Poor posture, muscular tension, and stress can cause tightness in the neck muscles and joints, leading to tension-type headaches or cervicogenic headaches that may be triggered or exacerbated during breastfeeding.
  4. Mommy Thumb: Mommy thumb refers to pain and inflammation in the tendons of the thumb caused by repetitive gripping and lifting motions during breastfeeding. You may also feel tightness in your wrists, forearms and shoulders.

Causes Of Breastfeeding-Related Pain

  1. Poor Posture: Maintaining an improper posture, such as slouching or hunching over while breastfeeding, can strain the muscles and joints of the back, neck, and shoulders.
  2. Repetitive Movements: The repetitive motion of lifting and holding the baby, combined with frequent breastfeeding sessions, can cause overuse injuries, musculoskeletal strain, and pain.
  3. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and breastfeeding can affect ligaments and muscles, leading to increased laxity and instability in the musculoskeletal system.

10 Tips to Avoid Back Pain While Breastfeeding

  1. Maintain Good Posture: Sit upright with your back supported and aligned. Use a supportive chair or cushion to provide comfort and prevent slouching.
  2. Use Proper Breastfeeding Positions: Experiment with different positions that promote a neutral spine and offer optimal support for your back and neck.
  3. Supportive Pillows: Utilise nursing pillows or cushions to help position your baby at breast level, reducing strain on your neck, shoulders, and back. The muscles in your spine, shoulders and forearms should be relaxed as you breastfeed.
  4. Stretch and Exercise: Perform gentle spinal stretching exercises to relieve muscle tension and improve flexibility. Strengthening exercises can also help support your posture.
  5. Take Breaks: Avoid extended periods of breastfeeding in the same position. Take short breaks to stretch, walk around, and relax your muscles.
  6. Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or yoga to reduce muscle tension and stress.
  7. Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Proper hydration and nutrition are essential for maintaining healthy muscles and preventing muscle cramps or spasms.
  8. Supportive Clothing: Wear comfortable bras and clothing that provide proper breast support and evenly distribute the baby’s weight.
  9. Ergonomic Accessories: Consider using ergonomic breastfeeding pillows, chairs, or cushions designed to provide optimal support.
  10. Seek Professional Help: Consult with an Osteopath or healthcare professional specialising in musculoskeletal health to address any persistent or severe pain and receive personalised professional care.

How Osteopathy Can Help Breastfeeding Mothers

Osteopaths are highly trained healthcare professionals who focus on diagnosing, treating, and preventing musculoskeletal disorders. They can provide valuable assistance to breastfeeding mothers experiencing pain and discomfort. Osteopathy also utilises a drug-free approach to treatment which is exceptionally important for mothers who do not want to rely on pain medications whilst breastfeeding.

Osteopathic Treatment For Breastfeeding-Related Pain Includes:

  1. Assessment: An osteopath will conduct a thorough evaluation to identify the underlying causes of pain, taking into account your medical history, posture, and movement patterns.
  2. Hands-On Techniques: Osteopaths use gentle manual techniques to restore balance, improve joint mobility, alleviate muscle tension, and promote overall musculoskeletal health.
  3. Exercise and Rehabilitation: Osteopaths can prescribe specific exercises and stretches tailored to your needs, strengthening the supportive muscles and enhancing posture.
  4. Postural Education: Osteopaths provide guidance on maintaining correct posture during breastfeeding and everyday activities, preventing future pain and injuries.
  5. Lifestyle Advice: Osteopaths can provide practical advice on ergonomics, self-care, and stress management techniques to optimise your overall well-being.


Breastfeeding-related pain can significantly impact the joy and bonding experience between a mother and her baby. Osteopathy provides a holistic and effective approach to address the underlying causes of breastfeeding pain, including back pain, neck pain, mommy thumb and headaches, ensuring a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for mothers.

By addressing and resolving musculoskeletal aches and pains, Osteopathy empowers mothers to overcome breastfeeding challenges and embrace the beauty of this special bond with their babies.

If you wish to discuss any of your aches and pains around your breastfeeding experience, please feel free to contact our Osteopaths, who will gladly chat with you.

Contact the team at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or Book Online.

Better Health Osteopathy

Lorraine Herity is the Clinic Director of Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch, New Zealand. She previously worked in Osteopathic clinics in London and Ireland, before moving to New Zealand. Lorraine trained at the British School of Osteopathy in London, where she gained her Master of Osteopathy (M.Ost). Lorraine is a dedicated and passionate Osteopath. Her main aim is to help her patients regain their health and to return her patients back to their everyday activities, in as quick a time as possible. Lorraine is also a clinic tutor on the Osteopathic Course in Ara and relishes the opportunity to teach the next generation of osteopaths.