Easing Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy | Some Helpful Exercises

TL;DR: Find solutions to Pelvic Girdle Pain. Video below.


Pelvic Girdle Pain Explained

Are you experiencing pain in your hips, lower back and pubic region? Is it particularly painful when you stand on one leg, when you widen your stance, climb stairs or get out of bed? Do you feel a weird grinding or clicking sensation in your pubic region?

Areas Commonly Affected by Pelvic Girdle Pain

If so, the chances are you might have Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP). This is a condition that occurs when your pelvic joints become stiff, unstable and inflamed due to hormonal and biomechanical changes in your body during pregnancy.

PGP can be a huge drag, affecting sleep and simple day-to-day activities like climbing stairs. So it’s important to know the best ways to reduce the pain. First off, we’ll cover the things that commonly set off PGP attacks, so you can lessen your chances of getting PGP. Next, we’ll cover treatments, including a safe exercise routine, which will help you ease the pain.

What to Avoid

  • Anything that involves splaying your legs wide apart. This means avoiding things like breaststroke when swimming, doing wide sumo squats, and taking stairs two at a time. All of these movements put extra strain on your pelvic joints, and extra strain causes extra pain.
  • Anything that involves putting weight on one leg. Stay away from standing on one leg while putting on undies, socks and shoes. Sit down instead. When getting out of bed, or getting out of a car seat, avoid pushing off with just a single leg. Instead, turn your whole body to the edge of the bed or car seat, place both legs on the ground and then get up. Again, you want to avoid overloading any one joint, as this will cause it to flare up in pain.
  • Carrying heavy weights- especially in one arm. This doesn’t just mean in the gym. Stay away from things like heavy bags of shopping, and big baskets of wet laundry.
  • High impact exercises like running, tennis and squash. Stay away from anything where repeated shocks and stresses, like your foot striking a pavement several hundred times during a run, could aggravate your joints. Switch to lower impact exercises like swimming instead, but remember to avoid those wide breaststroke leg kicks.

Treatment for PGP

Your first option should be to find a physiotherapist that specialises in women’s issues. If you aren’t immediately familiar with one, ask your midwife or your doctor to put you in touch with one. Studies show that 1 in 3 women experience Pelvic Girdle Pain during pregnancy, and that each experience is slightly different. A professional will be able to diagnose your individual problems and give you the specific care that you require.

Depending on your case of PGP, you might be recommended the following options:

Adjusting Your Sleeping Pattern

A common solution is to sleep on your side with a pillow or bolster tucked between your legs. By sandwiching the pillow between your top and bottom legs, you may be able to relieve some pressure on your tender joints and get a better night’s rest.

Getting Some Extra Support

You might need a maternity support to take some of the pressure on your joints. A common aid is a pregnancy support belt, such as the Cantaloop sold by Baby Central. Some women can find this slightly uncomfortable at first, so get acclimatised slowly by gradually increasing the length of time you wear it per day. You can even buy sleep supports such as this Babymoov Dream Belt, also sold by Baby Central, to help in bed.

Depending on the severity of your PGP, some doctors might even recommend crutches and other aids. If this applies to you, I’d recommend that you prepare a small backpack to carry all your everyday items conveniently.

Trying Physiotherapy and Supportive Exercises

If done carefully, in a way that is mindful of the severity of your PGP and the stability of your pelvic joints, specific exercises can be extremely helpful. The idea is for these exercises to strengthen your core, pelvic floor, back and hip muscles to give your more stability in this region.

If you have been cleared to exercise by your physiotherapist, I would recommend the following exercises:

Cat-cow stretch

  • Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Tuck your toes under your feet.
  • Get into the cow pose by arching your back. Inhale while arching your back.
  • Lift your bum up to move your pelvis back and un-tuck your tailbone.
  • Push your hands into the ground open up your chest.
  • Get into the cat pose by letting your head move down and rounding your back.
  • Exhale as you round your back.
  • Repeat the sequence several times starting from the cow pose.

Modified Bird Dog

  • Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Make sure that your spine is in a neutral position.
  • Breathe in and lift and extend one arm in front of you.
  • Exhale and return to the starting position before switching to the other arm.
  • If you can perform the above sequence without pain, try this more advanced variation:
    • As you lift and extend your arm, simultaneously extend your opposite leg with your foot sliding away along the floor.
    • Come back to the starting position on all fours and then repeat for the opposite arm and leg.
    • (If your foot isn’t sliding, try putting on a sock or placing a towel underneath your toes.)

Modified Clamshells

  • Carefully lie down on your side. Support your head with your arm or a cushion. Keep your knees and feet together and bring up your knees up to about 90 degrees. Make sure your heels are in line with your bum.
  • Place a cushion between your knees. This keeps your knee more in line with your hip.
  • Raise your knee off the cushion and then back down. We’re not looking for a huge range of motion. Be careful that you don’t rock your hips back and forth.
  • Repeat for both sides

Box squats

  • If unassisted bodyweight squats are uncomfortable, squat to sit on a bench or a chair.
  • Keep your feet hip width apart, standing tall.
  • Start the movement by inhaling and lowering your bum back towards the bench. Keep your shins vertical.
  • Once touching the chair, stand up again. Remember to exhale and keep your shins vertical while doing so. Squeeze your booty muscles through the movement.

However, remember that if you experience any pain while doing these, stop immediately and approach your physiotherapist. There’s no point battling through the pain, as you might not be able to perform your reps with the correct form, and this could end up being counterproductive in the long run.


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