In my last post we discussed why hip pain is so common during pregnancy, and explored the top 3 causes. We also discussed why prenatal PT should be your FIRST stop to fix it.
Today, as promised, I am going to divulge 3 AWESOME DIY tips for addressing YOUR hip pain, and making your pregnancy more comfortable, active and enjoyable.
If you haven’t read my last post, hips can hurt because of postural changes, mechanical and hormonal changes, muscle tightness, tension, weakness, nerve irritation, and more.
So what can you DO about it?
Spoiler Alert: my biggest tip is to come see us (your local prenatal / pelvic floor exerts) for individual assessment and treatment! Recognize that your OBGYN or midwife, while amazing at what they do, is NOT trained in pain relief or assessment of the musculoskeletal and nervous system as relates to pain. They do not know how to SPECIFICALLY help you, other than tell you to rest, ice, and take some Tylenol. You need to consult a professional who fixes pain and restores strength and mobility as their daily bread – and that means PT.
But, if you have to wait for PT or you’re not convinced, here are some things to try – straight from the playbook of our 4 experienced prenatal pelvic floor physical therapists.
Tip #1: Specific Gentle Stretching
We all know about relaxin loosening the pelvic joints during pregnancy, and I mentioned in my last post that the “relaxin = no stretching” rule is a myth. Many muscles in your hips may get tight during pregnancy for all the reasons I’ve mentioned in the prior posts – changing base of support, altered posture, changing gait mechanics (how you walk) increased load, and inadequate strength.
Some areas of your pregnant body are over- stretched, yes. But some muscles can become tight or tense and cause you pain.
The hip flexors, and particularly the iliopsoas, are some of these muscles.
To get some relief for tight hip flexors (which often contribute to back pain as well), try this gentle stretch:
👉Lay on the edge of your bed or a picnic table (if back lying is still comfortable for you)
👉Hug the inner knee (toward the bed) in toward your chest (don’t squish your belly!)
👉Let the outer leg slowly drop down off the size of the bed until you feel a nice stretch through the front of the hip and thigh
👉 Breathe and relax for 15-30 seconds. When you’re ready to stop, engage your core as you carefully lift the hanging leg back to the bed, then scoot around to do the other leg.
Back lying not comfortable? Bed too squishy? Back hurts with this one? Check out my Instagram feed (@shefitpt) – I’ve posted several other hip flexor stretches over the years, and Dr. Jessica shared one recently she’s been using for her own pregnancy-related pain. Better yet, come in for an individualized assessment and stretches tailored JUST for you. 😉
Dr. Ellen’s top stretch for hip pain targets the adductors (inner thigh muscles), which can often contribute to groin and hip pain. It’s called the Frog Rock Back, and if the name isn’t enough to get you to try it, I am telling you it feels amazing!
Watch a video of Dr. Ellen demonstrating this stretch here. Note in the video how she adjusts her spinal position prior to moving into the stretch to really target the muscles and protect the back.
Your spinal position impacts your hip joint! Being conscious of the position of your pelvis and low back when you perform a stretch is essential to getting the most out of any hip stretch.
Tip #2: Soft Tissue Release (i.e. massage)
Nothing beats a good DEEP muscle release, especially one you can do yourself at home!
This easy technique targeting the piriformis has been a long time favorite with my clients who have hip, buttock, or even low back pain during pregnancy.
The piriformis is a useful but pesky little muscle in the center of your buttock that helps stabilize your hip and pelvis, especially during walking or running. It can tighten up quite a bit during pregnancy, causing hip pain, low back pain, and sciatica. (It goes right over the sciatic nerve!) This is the muscle you are targeting in “pidgeon pose”, or a “figure 4 stretch.”
👉Use any firm ball, roughly tennis ball size.
👉Take a slight squat at a diagonal to the wall.
👉Find the midpoint along the line between your outer hip bone and your sacrum, and start with the ball there.
👉Press your glute against the wall into the ball to the desired pressure, then SLOWLY roll the ball up and down, back and forth against the wall along your glutes, finding ALL those sweet spots!
👉 Don’t overdo it!
If you’ve been frustrated at not being able to get a really good deep massage during your pregnancy, our PTs will be your best friends. Many massage therapists may be nervous to work deeply on a pregnant body, and some don’t like to touch the buttocks much. As pelvic floor PT, we are not afraid to release the glutes or use deeper pressure, even during pregnancy!
PLUS, we want to teach you to reproduce our work (as much as possible) at home, to maintain that relief between visits and reduce your need for our hands on you! “A good PT works herself out of a job,” my mentor used to say.
Want some dreamy therapeutic deep tissue to relieve your aches and pains? Get on our schedule!
Tip #3: Strength and Stabilization Training
We’ve talked about hip pain being caused by a lack of stability, so it makes sense that our next tip is about strength!
Dr. Kelsey’s go-to hip stabilization exercises are focused on the hip rotators and abductors. These muscles help keep your pelvis centered and strong when you stand, walk, run, MOVE on your feet! They also stabilize your SI joints, support your low back, and work together with your pelvic floor.
Some of our favorites are:
👉 Sidelying clams: Lie on your side with hips, knees and feet stacked and spine in neutral. Rest your head on your arm. Inhale to prepare your core, exhale and engage your core to stabilize as you lift JUST the top knee, keeping the feet together and pelvis perfectly still. Inhale and drop the knee. DO NOT let your top hip rock back! You should feel this on the back side of your top hip.
👉 Reverse clams: same position as above, but instead of lifting the knee, lift the foot and keep the knees together. This works your hip INTERNAL rotators.
👉 Seated abduction (banded): Put a resistance band around your knees or thighs. Sit up tall with good posture and feet on the floor. Inhale to prepare, exhale and engage your core as you press the knees out into the band, KEEPING your spine and pelvis neutral! Inhale and return to center.
I like to progress to:
👉 Single leg bridges
👉 Side plank+clam or hip abduction
(check out this YouTube video for a quick hip workout I posted while pregnant, including some of these movements!)
We like the tried and true favorites, but we also like to get creative – especially when the standard popular exercises don’t work for you. For an individualized, tailored program come see us any time! Book Now
So what do you do when ALL the online and DIY tips don’t work? When you’ve seen chiro and massage and your hips STILL hurt?
What do PTs do to relieve and PREVENT hip pain as pregnancy progresses?
– thoroughly assess YOUR posture, alignment, and movement strategies
– teach you to use your core and hips effectively and efficiently as your body changes through pregnancy
– assign SPECIFIC stretches, massage techniques, and strength exercises to help you relieve pain and improve function between sessions
– apply our OWN massage, myofascial release, and joint mobilization techniques to relieve your pain and balance your body
– get you on a strength program that is fun, fulfilling and effective to optimize your prenatal strength, and modify it as needed throughout your pregnancy
– answer ALL the many questions that arise about your body, pain and fitness during pregnancy, even when things aren’t going smoothly and you need someone to help you navigate a tough situation
If you’re in pain now don’t wait! Come see us, your local experts, in the clinic. We are passionate about helping YOU thrive through pregnancy and beyond!