What is pelvic pain?
More than 50% of pregnant women experience some form of pelvic pain, often referred to as Pelvic Girdle Pain, Sacro-Iliac Joint pain or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. Pelvic Girdle Pain is often confused with Sciatica which is less common in pregnancy. Pelvic pain is often one-sided and may be concentrated in the buttocks. It is often brought on by sitting or rising from sitting. It may appear to jump from side to side or be accompanied by general back pain or altered control of bladder function.
Causes of pelvic pain
- Prenatal – The hormone relaxin is produced after ovulation and it continues to rise during the 1st trimester and in the final weeks of pregnancy. This hormone relaxes or loosens the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the body in order to allow the body to accommodate the growing baby. Specifically, the hormone loosens and widens the joints at the front of the sacroiliac joint and pubic symphysis which reduces their stability and changes the efficiency of the muscles which attach around that region. When you couple this with the increased load of the baby, you have an unstable pelvis which often causes pain
Changes in posture and muscle strength generally can also contribute to pelvic pain.
- Postnatal – Trauma at birth can tear or loosen some of the ligaments in the pelvis
How can physiotherapy help?
Physiotherapy for pelvic pain is aimed at maximising a high level of function as pain-free as possible. A physiotherapist will begin by taking a detailed history from you to work out the exact cause of your pain. They will then perform a physical assessment, including stress tests for the groin and hip flexors.
Treatment for pelvic pain may include soft tissue massage to release tight muscles as well as mobilisation of the pelvis, lumbar spine and hips. An appropriate program of exercises will also be prescribed to improve core stability. A Pelvic Support Belt may also be beneficial.