As if the pregnancy cravings, tiredness, and mood changes were not enough to deal with, pregnancy often also presents girdle pain.
Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PrPGP) is any pain occurring between the iliac crests and the gluteal fold, particularly in the vicinity of the sacroiliac or pubic symphysis joints. Pain might radiate down the back of the thigh and PrPGP often affects your ability to sit, walk, and stand comfortably as you move through each trimester.
What Does Pregnancy-Related Pelvic Girdle Pain Feel Like?
PrPGP can be mild or more severe. It can also arise in different regions, including the following:
- Pubic symphysis
- Sacroiliac joint
- Pelvic floor
- Lower back
- Inner thigh
- Side of the hip
It tends to be a sharp pain and increases when doing weight-bearing movements on one leg. For example, you might get a stabbing type of pain when putting on pants and standing on one leg, or when rolling over, getting out of bed, or standing or walking for long periods.
Why Do Women Experience Pregnancy-Related Pelvic Girdle Pain?
So why am I getting PrPGP, you ask?
The pelvic girdle is a circle of bones located at the base of the spine. PrPGP occurs in the front and the back of your pelvis. It can also affect other areas, including the hips or lower back.
Your pelvis (and whole body!) is more sensitive during pregnancy, which is the reason we are more sensitive to smells, sounds, and tastes. There are psychological, biological, and social factors that all contribute to the development of PrPGP.
Your risk of developing PrPGP is higher if you have already dealt with pelvic or lower back pain. Other things that increase your risk of or exacerbate symptoms of PrPGP include:
- Heightened stress
- Prior trauma to your pelvic or previous lower back pain due to sports injuries, vehicle accidents, etc.
A physical examination includes a thorough assessment to help us determine what factors contribute to your pain. We’ll then develop a personalised holistic treatment plan to support your recovery. During the initial visit, we’ll determine a treatment plan based on the type of pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain you’re experiencing and what the individual factors are that are affecting your pelvis; including sleep, stress, and exercise levels.
How Long Does It Take to Experience Pain Relief from Treatment?
Everyone is different. How long it takes to benefit from PrPGP treatment varies depending on the causes and your symptom severity.
The good news is that PrPGP can be successfully managed with pelvic physiotherapy. It is important to have a thorough assessment to determine what is contributing to PrPGP. Pelvic physiotherapy can help before and after childbirth. Treatment during pregnancy optimises your pregnancy and birth experience. It can also make recovery much more manageable.
However, it is just as important that you understand what’s happening in your body and we can help you with a positive and hopeful mindset with managing your PrPGP. So, in addition to treatments provided at our clinic, you can also do things at home to manage your PrPGP. This includes recommendations for choosing the best pelvic belt, tips for wearing it, and exercises you can do at home to extend the benefits of what you learn in your appointments.
How Does a Pelvic Physiotherapist Help with PrPGP?
Your physiotherapist will perform a thorough assessment to determine the contributing factors to your pain and develop an integrated, holistic management plan to aid your recovery. The goal of treatment is to lessen the discomfort of PrPGP and help you improve your quality of life.
Massage and Soft Tissue Work
Your back muscles are likely to be tight during and after pregnancy. Tightness also affects your core, as well as your glutes and hips. Pregnancy massage and other soft tissue release treatments can help you relax tight muscles and ease the physical tension associated with your body changes.
The changes that happen in your pelvic floor muscles throughout pregnancy can impact your quality of life. These body parts might seem isolated, but they actually affect almost everything your body does and every movement it makes.
With PrPGP, the pelvic floor muscles may actually be too tight, not too weak. So, doing the same core and pelvic floor exercises that you would use to strengthen these muscles when they’re already contracted may not give you the relief that you’re looking for. Take kegel exercises, for example. A kegel exercise is a common therapy for pelvic floor issues and can do wonders to help a weak pelvic floor. However, if you have overactive muscles, this exercise can actually make things worse! Instead of helping, it can keep the muscles tense and can make conditions like PrPGP get worse, and may also impact bladder, bowel and sexual health.
To help you avoid scenarios like this one, consider seeing a pelvic health physio so that you can better understand what may be affecting your pelvic floor, and the types of treatments needed for your specific pelvic floor muscle issue.
Activity, Movement, and Sleep Position Modifications
One of the most important aspects of physiotherapy is helping you adjust your body so it can move optimally. Advice for reducing pain while sleeping and performing everyday movements allows you to properly distribute your weight to avoid discomfort. A physiotherapist can teach you practical advice for how to comfortably:
- Roll in and out of bed
- Get dressed without having to balance on one leg
- Lift your newborn/older children
- Sleep in a comfortable position
- Change walking pace and style to reduce the load on the pelvis
Why Seek Treatment for Pregnancy-Related Pelvic Girdle Pain?
PrPGP isn’t harmful in itself. It certainly won’t harm your unborn baby. However, it is uncomfortable and can affect your quality of life. PrPGP can impede movement and make caring for yourself and your newborn baby difficult.
Early diagnosis and treatment are so important so you can feel your best and have the best possible recovery after childbirth. The pain may resolve independently, but this isn’t always the case. It’s also unnecessary to wait for the pain to ease without treatment.