What is SI Joint pain? This is pain that occurs in the joint of the pelvis (the sacroiliac joint). This joint links the iliac bone (pelvis) to the sacrum (lowest part of the spine).
You’ll likely notice the pain when moving out of resting positons, and it is typically a sharp pain on one side.
Around week 16 of my pregnancy, I started to feel some pretty uncomfortable SI Joint pain. This isn’t uncommon – the pregnant body, during weeks 16-18, begins preparing for increased weight gain and growth. In fact, my belly popped at week 18! This natural increase in the hormone relaxin encourages mobility of the joints – especially the hips. Relaxin causes ligaments to loosen and muscles to become less active as well. This is all well and fine so long as both sides of the SI Joint loosen in the same way. However, problems (pain) arise when one side is looser than the other, and this is largely due to postural discrepancies prior to pregnancy.
Katie Green, in a recent post on her page, details the function of the SI Joint. She also explains that the SI Joint needs a certain level of quality mobility in order to support the spine, but when the SI Joint senses any structural issue in the body, the joint will protect or tighten up. When this occurs continuously, the joint becomes overworked and this leads to rigidness and immobility. From there, the body will begin to over-recruit surrounding muscles to keep us walking forward, like the glutes, piriformis, lower back, etc.
As stated above, when one side is more mobile, the compensation chain of events caused by postural discrepancies can cause the other side of the SI Joint to become less mobile/rigid. Now, we know during pregnancy that there is an increase in mobility, muscle lengthening, and lack of stability, so the last thing your pregnant body needs is more stretching. In fact, many women find the more they stretch and get massages, the more often the pain occurs.
So what do we do instead?
First, Katie took me through the SI Joint mobilization exercise to realign my hips and then released trigger points in my glutes and fascia. This allowed for the more rigid joint to begin moving more freely again. From there, I focused on strengthening the surrounding muscles to reinforce stability (keeping the hips in good alignment) while also focusing on maintaining quality mobility.
I have a Hip Flow that I do daily, and can be accessed through my online studio Balance20.
You can also try out the following to help combat SI joint pain in pregnancy:
SI Joint Mobilization
Basic Glute Bridges
Side Leg Raises
Rocking on all 4's
In conclusion, stretching of any kind during pregnancy typically isn't needed due to higher amounts of relaxin, and is often the cause of pain due to too much mobility without enough stability. In order to keep joints in alignment, especially the hips, we should focus on activating and strengthening the posterior muscles of the legs. Quality mobility can be maintained through SI Joint Mobilization, walking, moving daily and rocking on all 4's.