Pregnancy does not hurt everyone’s hips…but if pregnancy impacted your hips, you KNOW it.
Your hips may feel loosey-goosey and unstable.
You may feel chronic tightness and tension.
You may feel like your SI joint is unstable or constantly hurting.
Pregnancy can affect our hips in many ways….and it doesn’t matter if you had your baby three weeks ago or 30 years ago.
If you haven’t done the work to rebalance your body, you’re still being impacted by the physical changes of pregnancy.
PREGNANCY CHANGES THE HIPS
Pregnancy creates massive imbalances in the body.
Your core, a fundamental support system for your body, must get weak to create room for the baby.
This key change creates imbalances all over the body and can particularly impact our pelvis.
The pelvis is the gateway between your upper and lower body and is involved in every step you take. It’s also connected to, and impacted by, MANY muscles including the core, pelvic floor, back muscles, psoas, inner and outer hip muscles, adductors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glute muscles.
In a normal body, the muscles connecting to the pelvis are balanced. When properly balanced, they keep your pelvis from moving much when you go for a walk or run or do your favorite exercise. The body likes this because too MUCH movement in the pelvis can put the spine at risk.
So for the pelvis…less movement = GOOD!
But pregnancy takes us out of balance. Certain muscles (like the core and glutes) get weak, and other muscles become overactive to pick up the slack for the weak areas.
And many of these imbalances impact the pelvis.
We feel this as hip pain, tightness, and instability!
So what exactly are the changes during pregnancy that can affect your hips?
INSTABILITY ABOVE THE PELVIS
First, as I mentioned above, your belly expands to accommodate the growing baby. Your core muscles have to lose strength to allow for that expansion. This is a big deal.
Normally, your core plays a key role in keeping your spine stable.
When the core can’t play the role of a spine stabilizer, other muscles will start working overtime to protect the spine.
Back muscles tighten to compensate for the weak core. This includes the paraspinal muscles and the quadratus lumborum (QL), shown in the image.
And even the hip muscle, the psoas (which connects to the spine and the legs).
End result above the pelvis? Tightness in the psoas and back, and a lack of stability for the pelvis from above!
INSTABILITY BELOW THE PELVIS
As the muscles of the back and the psoas are working overtime, the impact is also felt below your pelvis. The psoas is usually a hip flexor, but while it’s doing the job of stabilizing your spine it can’t move your leg effectively, so other hip muscles begin to take over the job of the psoas.
One of those muscles, the Tensor Fascia Latae (or TFL) on the outside of your hip, ends up doing a lot of extra lifting to get your leg in front of you and it becomes overworked. For many of us with IT band issues, the TFL is likely overworking since they are directly connected.
As the TFL works overtime, it inhibits the glutes from working properly (a.k.a. it shuts the glutes off!). The glutes already lost some strength over the course of pregnancy, but the overactive TFL will reduce the glutes more, causing them to become even weaker.
Weakness in the glutes results in muscles deep inside the pelvis, like the deep hip rotators (e.g. piriformis) and pelvic floor muscles tightening up to try to create the stability that the glutes usually create!
End result below the pelvis? Overactive outer hips and deep hip muscles, and weak glutes mean the pelvis isn’t properly stabilized from below!
So, as you can see, pregnancy creates imbalances in the muscles that stabilize the pelvis from both above AND below.
This means that the pelvis is now more mobile.
But, remember, for the pelvis, less movement = Good!
More movement = Bad!
The body doesn’t like a pelvis that moves around a lot. A pelvis that moves a lot can damage the spine.
HOW YOU EXPERIENCE THIS
The body will do everything it can to create stability. This might mean your hip flexors, pelvic floor, inner thighs, or back muscles get even tighter to try and keep the pelvis from moving.
But those muscles aren’t as good as stabilizing the pelvis as the core and glutes, so even though they are really tight, your pelvis is still pretty unstable.
What this feels like is lots of tightness and discomfort, paired with instability.
Feeling like your hips are SO tight, but you still have one side “coming out,” or your SI joint getting locked up all the time.
SO WHY DO YOU HAVE HIP PAINS AFTER PREGNANCY?
Pregnancy created imbalances that decreased your pelvis stability.
It’s normal! It’s predictable!
And, good news for you, it’s fixable!
What’s the solution?
Very simply, we have to rebalance the muscles of the body. We have to get the weak muscles working harder and the overworked muscles to relax. We need each piece of our body to be doing the job it was intended to do.
We can’t pinpoint one muscle or area of the body and say ‘I’ll just make this stronger.’
Each muscle we use is impacted by those around it. We have to rebalance the entire system.
Pregnancy changed your hips, but you’re not doomed to live with way forever.