Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and pubic symphysis dysfunctions (PSD) are musculoskeletal concerns of the hips which can occur at any stage during pregnancy- noticeably when your bump increases in size.
What is Pelvic Girdle Pain?
Let’s start with what PGP is, PGP can be experienced from the top of the hips (at the back) to the bottom of the hips, however, it can also refer to the front of the pelvis or down the back of the leg. PGP is common in healthy pregnancies, it’s onset can be a result of abnormal motor control of the musculoskeletal system or a suboptimal pelvis position.
What are the symptoms of Pelvic Girdle Pain?
- Pain in the posterior (back of the) hips – can be one side or both
- Pain in the area at the bottom of the pelvis (between the vagina and anus)
- Radiating down the back of the leg/s (pins and needles, shooting) – can commonly be mistaken for sciatica symptoms
- Difficulty with sitting*
- Difficulty with standing*
- Difficulty walking*
- Difficulty with stair climbing*
* With all movements mentioned above you may experience clicking or grinding from the pelvis area.
What is Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction?
PSD can be experienced alongside PGP, however is usually more specific to the front of the pelvis or groin region. It is characterised by a increase in distance between the pubic symphysis of greater than 10mm. PSD is most noticeable when weight bearing such as stair climbing, picking an object up, walking and sitting/standing.
What are the symptoms of Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction?
- Pain at the front of the pelvis
- Pain feels deep
- Pain in groin or inside of the thigh (can be both sides or just one)
- May hear or feel a clicking or grinding sensation in the front of the pelvis when standing, sitting, walking up stairs
- Waddling style walking
- Groin pain could also accompany sacroiliac joint pain or low back pain
Can you still exercise if you’re experiencing Pelvic Girdle Pain?
Safe and effective exercises for PGP and PSD include hip strengthening, pelvic floor strengthening and water exercise.
Let’s delve a little deeper into each area- firstly hip strengthening. The muscles of the hips are some of the largest in the body and are extremely important for walking, running, lifting, stair climbing, side walking and mostly keeping our hips and body balanced during single leg movements.
In pregnancy, the hip muscles are responsible for ensuring the pelvis is supported during all types of movements due to the increased load and the influence of relaxin on ligament laxity.
The core cylinder including the diaphragm, pelvic floor, multifidus and transverse abdominis are important for supporting our spine and pelvis. The stronger these muscles are the better our core stability will be, which will minimise pain for the present and longer term- especially post delivery!!
Lastly, water exercise is a fantastic way to get physical activity especially in later stages of pregnancy. Water acts as a buoyant and decreases the load on our joints and structures which helps us move better, freer and can achieve the desired intensity without pain or gravity limiting us. Water also acts as a temperature regulator to minimise how much we are overheating during exercise- so if you are concerned about exercising and your pain levels during pregnancy, a water program is always a good option!
To answer the above question- Can you still exercise? the simple answer is Yes! Remember to always seek your doctor, midwife or specialist approval first before commencing exercise. It is recommended you seek an Accredited Exercise Physiologist’s opinion on what exercise is safe for you!