What is pelvic girdle pain (pgp)?
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) is the umbrella term that describes pain within the joints of the pelvis. These joints include the sacrum – the triangular bone that sits between your hip bones at the back of your pelvis known as the sacroiliac joints. It also includes the joint that connect the two halves of the front of your pelvis, called the symphysis pubis joint.
This is a actually a common condition that affects about 1 in 5 pregnant women. Most women will become pain free in the first 12 weeks after delivery however, 5-7% will not.
What are the symptoms of pgp?
The levels and location of pain can vary from person to person . The can either be one-sided or it may alternate from one side to the other. The pain may be a general ache or it may shoot into your buttocks or down the back of your legs. This can often be confused with sciatica, as this also causes a sharp pain down the back of the leg.
The typical symptoms you may get include:
- Lower back pain.
- Pain around the symphysis pubis joint (the front bone of the pelvis) and sacroiliac joints (back of the pelvis).
- Groin pain or in within your pelvic floor around the opening to your vagina and your anus (your perineum).
- Pain within the front and the back of your thighs or at the back of your lower legs.
The reason there are a number of areas which may have pain are that that are a number of pain provoking structures in and around the pelvis, including ligaments, nerves, and muscles. As you might imagine, the pelvis goes through a lot of stress and adaptation during pregnancy and delivery, and many different structures can be moved, stretched, or pushed on, so it’s not surprising that the painful areas can be diffuse. For some, these areas heal naturally following birth and don’t hurt anymore or cause further problems. For others, pain can linger.
How is pgp treated?
We suggest coming in to see us, or your own physiotherapist, for a physiotherapy assessment. Working with a physiotherapist and making some lifestyle changes are the main tactics for treating PGP, as it very much depends on what the cause is for you specifically, and which areas are being affected. We, or your physiotherapist, will be able to determine what specifically needs releasing or strengthening.
As a general rule be careful during everyday activities. Your physiotherapist can show you how to protect your pelvis during movements that are usually painful, such as walking, sitting up in bed, or picking your baby up. Your physiotherapist may give you a pelvic support belt. A belt can give relief from pain, particularly when you’re exercising, as it adds external support to the structures of your pelvis.
Exercises for your core, pelvic floor, hip and pelvic muscles, aim to improve the stability of your pelvis and back. Gym type exercises in water can be helpful as it is non weight baring and can be more comfortable in the early stages of diagnosis.
A physiotherapist can gently manipulate your hip, back and pelvis to help loosen stiff areas that might be causing you pain. Specific strengthening exercises for the pelvis maybe advised for you to do at home to help strengthen any weak muscles surrounding your pelvis. This may also include pelvic floor exercises.