Here we explore some reasons why you experience hip pain during pregnancy and an expert shares some exercises to alleviate those aches.
Why are my hips so achy?
Jill Hoefs, M.P.T., owner of Body Align Physical Therapy in Manhattan and Summit, New Jersey, and co-author of Your Best Pregnancy: The Ultimate Guide to Easing the Aches, Pains, and Uncomfortable Side Effects During Each Stage of Your Pregnancy, says there are a few main causes of hip pain in pregnant women.
The first: weight gain. “Some women gain a third of their weight, and doing that, especially in such a short time period, is hard on your joints.”
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Next, fluctuating hormone levels can lead to hip pain. That’s because the body’s production of a hormone called relaxin increases. Relaxin allows the pelvis and birth canal to widen and expand, so the baby can descend during delivery.
But in the process, relaxin allows the pelvic joints to loosen and shift, which can result in a dull ache in the hips.
Sciatica can also cause hip discomfort (this has amazing reviews). There are two sciatic nerves traveling from the lower back to the feet.
As your baby grows, so does your uterus, placing pressure on those nerves and leading to pain and/or numbness or tingling in the hips, butt, and thighs.
Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction
Finally, if experience sharp and stabbing pain (especially in the center of the pelvis) that verges on unbearable when doing daily activities, you may have a condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction.
This comes as a result of excessive instability in the pelvis caused by those quickly widening hip joints. If you believe you’re experiencing SPD, talk with your healthcare provider.
He or she may advise you to wear a pelvic support belt (like this best seller), called a Serola sacroiliac belt, to hold the pelvis together and provide more stability.
Moves to Reduce Hip Pain
A few basic yet effective moves have the power to diminish pregnancy-related hip pain. It will help to have a resistance band or tubing and a small dense ball (like this one), similar to those used in Pilates, on hand.
Read on for Hoefs’ moves, many of which she performed herself during her three pregnancies.
“Your gluteus maximus should be the largest and strongest skeletal muscle in your body, and it is your strongest hip external rotator,” Hoefs says. “Keeping it strong takes stress off your hip joints and back.
- Begin by lying on your side, your head resting on your arm. The resistance band should be looped around both thighs, tied tightly enough to provide a medium amount of resistance.
- Pull your knees forward so that they form a 45-degree angle with your core, and then bend both knees to 90 degrees. (Hips should be stacked.)
- Making sure the band is positioned just above both knees, exhale as you raise the top leg up and back, much like a clamshell would open up, keeping your feet connected.
- Open and close your knees in a slow, controlled motion for one minute, exhaling as you lift the knee up and inhaling as it comes back down. Repeat on the other side. Do this five times a week.
- This move, designed to help alleviate SPD pain, begins in a lying position. (You can even do it in bed, Hoefs says.)
- Bend your knees, placing your feet flat on the ground (or bed).
- Place a pillow between your knees. Squeeze the pillow between your inner thighs; hold for five seconds. Perform two sets of ten every day.
- Note: You can enlist your partner to help with this move. Ask your partner to place his or her hands on the insides of your knees and provide resistance as you squeeze.
- Begin by lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place a small ball between your upper thighs, squeezing your legs to hold it in place. Lift your hips up into the air, driving from your heels and continuing to squeeze your legs together as you lift.
- Hold for a beat at the top, and then lower back down. Repeat ten times, and then rest before completing two more sets. Do this series every day.
- Note: It is safe to lie on your back for the brief amount of time it takes to perform this move.
- Beginning on your hands and knees, sit back onto your heels, spreading your knees far enough to allow your belly to rest between.
- Reach your arms forward until you feel a stretch. (You can rest your forehead on the floor.)
- Hold for as long as you like, maybe 30 seconds, breathing slowly and deeply. Next, “walk” your arms over to the right to feel a stretch in your left side along your torso and into your lower back and hips. Hold, and then repeat on the left.
- For sciatica, position a foam roller on the floor, perpendicular to your body (we love this one). Sit down on the roller and lean back, reaching your arms behind you to the floor for support.
- Shift your weight onto your right butt cheek by lifting your left leg and resting the left ankle on the right knee.
- Using your arms and right heel for leverage, roll back and forth on your right cheek until you feel the tension and pain easing a bit. Repeat on the other side. You can do this move as often as you like.
Bonus Move: The Anti-Waddler
When the outer hips, or hip abductors, are weak, people tend to compensate by leaning to the side when standing or walking. In heavily pregnant women, this appears in the form of waddling. Hoefs call this move “the best anti-waddling exercise because it strengthens your hip abductors, and strong outer hips help you to stand and walk with correct posture.”
- Standing up in a large room or long hallway, tie the resistance band around your ankles. Keeping your legs nearly straight (knees should not be locked), take steps to your right for one minute, and then repeat in the opposite direction. Do this five times a week.
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