Anna Winstanley Physiotherapy York

Pelvic Girdle Pain – a better understanding

Pregnant woman with pelvic girdle pain

Pelvic Girdle pain is the umbrella term given to pain that is experienced around the pelvis and lower back. In the past you may have heard the terms Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction or Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction. 

First, let’s bust some common myths…

It’s caused by relaxin

Relaxin is a useful hormone in pregnancy as it allows your cartilaginous tissue to soften which enables the pelvic to widen to accommodate the baby and for the pelvic outlet to open sufficiently for you to birth your baby.

My pelvis is unstable and I need to be really careful or it will go “out”.

Well meaning friends, or misguided professionals may have told you this. However, the pelvis is proven to be an extremely stable structure, even in the presence of hormonal changes. It would take an incredible amount of force to destabilise it, such as a car accident or a fall from height.

The pain will go away once I’ve had my baby / stopped breastfeeding.

Because we know that Relaxin is not the main cause of pelvic girdle pain, we know this is not always true. So if you are struggling, please seek advice early.

I need to rest and avoid movement

The opposite is true – therapeutic exercises and modifying the way you move are both helpful in improving symptoms. 

What we do know about Pelvic Girdle Pain

During pregnancy women’s tissues become more sensitive to sensory input, especially around the pelvis. I would hypothesise that this helps the woman to be more in tune with the movements of her baby.

Women who have had a prior pregnancy and especially one that involved some trauma or pain are likely to already have latent sensitivity. Now, with this new pregnancy sensitivity + latent sensitivity = much greater sensitivity.

What it means in the context of pelvic girdle pain, is that normal sensations of movement, temperature or chemicals within the tissues that might normally go under the radar may now cause pain or discomfort.

Movements and activities which usually cause pain for women with PGP

  • Walking up stairs
  • Turning over in bed or getting in or out of bed
  • Getting dressed
  • Walking
  • Standing on one leg
  • Standing up from a chair

This list isn’t exhaustive and once there is tissue sensitivity, other movements may cause pain too. It can make life quite miserable when you are trying to maintain an active pregnancy or care for toddlers at the same time! 

Physiotherapy for Pelvic Girdle Pain

I can assess your movements and rule out or identify any mechanical issues that may be contributing to your pain. If this is the case, treatment may include manual therapy and exercises, as well as ergonomic advice to help calm things down and make day to day activities easier. I can help you decide if some kind of support might also be helpful in the short term. 

As part of your assessment, I will also ask you about things in your day to day life which might be contributing to the pain and sensitivity that aren’t necessarily to do with how you move your body. Things like stress or sleep. This might be different to what you expect from a physio, but evidence is clear that helping women to identify non-movement factors can play a large role in reducing pain.

In Summary

The cause of Pelvic Girdle Pain is multifactorial.

It is treatable – the earlier the better.

You might need to adapt your thoughts and behaviours to achieve the best outcome.

Get help now

You can book in for an assessment straightaway or arrange a FREE 15 minute video call to establish your needs.

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Anna Winstanley

Hi I’m Anna, a Women's Health Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor in York with a nerdy passion for all things women’s health and wellbeing. I’ve worked with countless women over the years, helping them to feel strong, overcome pain and improve their quality of life so they can be marvellous mums, excellent employees and super selves.

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