Hip Pain – More common than you think!
When discussing Women’s Health issues during pregnancy, hip pain is often considered one of the most usual problems although many women do not expect it. Many suffer disproportionately; perhaps struggling to move and be active or even get out of bed or to get dressed.
Hip pain is particularly common during the third trimester and in short it is often caused by your body preparing to give birth. As your body releases hormones, your connective tissues relax and soften, causing joints and ligaments to loosen in order to help your baby out on the day. This is the most likely cause of hip pain as when your ligaments and joints get weaker, pressure or tightness can cause discomfort and soreness. In addition, being pregnant often changes your posture and overall biomechanics which in turn can contribute to various kinds of pain, both in the hip and lower back.
If the hip pain occurs in trimester one or two, it is highly likely caused by biomechanical changes in your body and as such can be treated as a musculoskeletal problem like any other physiotherapy issue. Much can be done about this kind of pain, so don’t suffer needlessly!
The second likely scenario is that postural changes during pregnancy can restrict the movement of the sciatic nerve – this can cause pain, tingling and/or numbness in your hip as well as your buttocks and thighs. This pain often comes and goes over time, often relating to how the baby moves and how this changes the pressure on the nerve. Such sciatica usually goes away after pregnancy, but it is worth to mention this to your GP so they can screen you for other causes of sciatica as well.
Similarly, if your hip pain is accompanied by pressure or soreness in your pelvic area and/or abdominal cramping/discomfort it is also advisable to discuss this with your doctor/physiotherapist to rule out other issues.
What can you do to help with hip pain?
Firstly, strong back, hips and abdominal muscles have been found to both prevent and help alleviate pain in the hips. As you get stronger, your body will be better able to support itself during pregnancy and help prevent bad posture as well as counter your joints and ligaments causing problems. Prenatal Yoga and Pilates classes are both good to help build strength, but any exercise you are comfortable with would be helpful.
If the pain is deemed to be caused by biomechanical changes, physiotherapists often prescribe a programme including strengthening, gentle mobilisation and stretches. You can help yourself by keeping active and mobile.
Secondly, in terms of immediate relief a warm bath or simply a hot water bottle on the hip can help as well as massaging the area. One exercise many women find helpful is to lie flat on a comfortable surface and raise your hips above your chest for a few minutes at the time (i.e. go into a bridge pose). This may help remove pressure and give you some gentle mobilisation that can alleviate pain.
Thirdly, experiment with sleeping positions. Closer to the delivery date many find that sleeping on your side with bent legs can help with the pain. If required, you can also use pillows to support your abdomen and legs to ensure you are comfortable and able to sleep without problem. If this is painful or unsuccessful, some women prefer instead to put a pillow or rolled up towel/blanket at the small of your back and either sleep on it flat, or put it against a vertical surface and sleep in a more sitting position.
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!
For more details on Physiotherapy related to this, please see:
Also have a read on my advise column at Babycentre.co.uk: