Pregnancy comes with a seemingly endless number of different aches and pains. Understanding each nuanced condition can be extremely overwhelming, especially given all the other difficulties and stresses that come with pregnancy. Among the most common pains in pregnancy is sacroiliac joint pain. Although it is so common, it is easily mistaken for other conditions, or even ignored. Keep reading to learn about how to correctly identify SI joint pain, and what exercises to practice or avoid to help find relief.
Identifying Sacroiliac Joint Pain
Most people experience SI Joint pain in the back of the pelvis, on only one side of the spine. Pain levels can fluctuate between constant and dull and sharp and shooting, and can radiate down to your leg. Pain is exacerbated by high weight loads on one leg. This can include going up the stairs, various exercises, riding a bicycle, etc.
What are the Sacroiliac Joints?
To understand what cause SI joint pain, it is important to understand the anatomy of your sacroiliac joints. There are to sacroiliac joints, one on either side of your sacrum, connecting it the ilia. The SI joints function to help prevent anterior pelvic tilt, which is when your pelvis tilts forward and causes the spine to curve.
What causes SI Joint pain in pregnancy?
Pregnancy causes a lot of change on the body, a lot of which increases the load on various joints, including the sacroiliac joint.
Changes in your body’s alignment
Due to the baby’s growth and the expansion of the uterus, pregnancy can cause your body to lose neutral pelvis alignment. The added weight in the front of the body cause the center of gravity to move further out and higher. It is common that this leads to anterior pelvic tilt, as your body is trying to account for rapid weight gain and change in center of gravity. This phenomenon can cause the sacrum and ilium to rub against one another, which can be extremely painful.
SI joint pain can also be attributed to a general increase in weight during pregnancy. This increases the load on the pelvis, and amplifies the other causes of SI joint pain.
To account for the changes your body undergoes during pregnancy, your body releases various hormones to assist in the development and delivery of the baby. One of the main hormones released during pregnancy is a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin, among other pregnancy hormones, has the job of making joints, ligaments, and connective tissue more flexible to allow a baby to grow and be pushed out. Although vital to healthy growth and delivery of a baby, these hormones cause joints to be less stable and more mobile, leading to pain.
What can I do?
Because the sacroiliac joints are not muscles, there are no stretches that will alleviate SI joint pain. Fortunately, there are alternative methods that you can do that will either lighten the load on the joint or strengthen the surrounding muscles. These tips aim to improve the stability of the sacroiliac joint and relieve pain.
Posture – Improving your posture will take unnecessary loads of the SI Joint and reduce pain.
Muscle Groups to focus on
Strengthening the muscle groups that function to stabilize the sacroiliac joints will help support the SI Joints and relieve pain and discomfort.
- Core – deep core muscles are responsible for supporting the SI Joints, and front core muscles help resist anterior pelvic tilt and lower back arch. Here are some low-impact exercises to practice:
- Incline planks
- Pelvic Floor Activations
- Lats – the lats stabilize your pelvis, and strengthening them will help resist anterior pelvic tilt, and reduce pain. Try these low impact exercises:
- Straight Arm Pull-Downs
- Single-Arm Bent Over Row
- Glutes – Along with the core, the glutes work to stabilize the pelvis. These exercises are good ways to strengthen your glutes and lessen SI Joint pain.
Movements to avoid
All the exercises listed above are great methods of stabilizing your pelvis. It is also important to avoid movements that aggravate sacroiliac joint pain. Limiting single-leg weight bearing activity will help maintain pelvic stability and reduce pain. Here are some examples of movements you may want to avoid if your are experiencing SI joint pain:
Step-ups/Lunges: Lower body exercises like these destabilize your pelvis. You should avoid uneven weight distribution over your feet.
High-Impact Activities: High-impact activities like running or jumping will increase pain due to the pelvis not being able to support such high stress.
Sitting cross-legged: Sitting straight up with your feet together will stop you from keeping all of your weight on one leg.
Daily activities: Use caution with daily activities that put all your weight on one leg. Some examples of these such as climbing the stairs or walking are difficult to avoid, but be mindful of your pain levels and listen to your body.
For more guidance on pre-natal and post-partum health, contact one of our experts.