Relieve Sacroiliac Joint Pain During Pregnancy – PROnatal Fitness

It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that back pain is the #1 most frequent complaint during pregnancy.  What you may not realize, though, is that there are actually different types of back pain, and understanding what type of pain you have is the key to appropriately addressing it – and getting some relief!

Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain, one of two primary types of back pain during pregnancy, is actually a very common pregnancy pain that sometimes gets mistaken for lower back pain.  However, unlike the standard lower back pain, SI joint pain is felt lower – usually around the tailbone or upper gluteal muscles – and is typically felt only on one side.  Often the pain is worsened with long periods of walking or stair climbing, and can sometimes create a feeling of “getting stuck” when moving from a seated to standing position. In some cases, the pain can radiate into your buttocks, and even down your leg a bit.    

What causes it: Your SI joint links your pelvis to your sacrum (the lowest part of your tailbone), and functions to help counteract the pull of your growing belly and resist that lower back arch. However, it’s job is made much more difficult by a little hormone called relaxin — a hormone that increases during pregnancy to basically “loosen up” all the ligaments in your hip and pelvic area to prepare your body for birth.  While this is certainly beneficial for delivery, it’s not so great for your SI joint because relaxin softens all the ligaments that hold it together — making it weaker and less stable.  Add to this the fact that your growing belly continues to pull harder in the opposite direction, and you can see how easy it can be for the SI joint to give, stretch, and possibly become hypermobile — which leads to pain.

How to prevent or treat it: The following tips can help prevent and/or soothe SI joint pain:

  • Strengthen your inner abdominal, gluteal, and pelvic floor muscles!  This is really the most effective way to reduce SI joint pain.  These muscles help to stabilize your pelvic area (basically counteracting the de-stabilizing effect of relaxin).  So, the stronger these muscles are, the more stability you’ll have in your pelvic region, and therefore the less pressure you’ll place on your SI joint.  In addition to the Belly Breathing, TVA Holds, and Floor Bridges discussed above, incorporate proper Kegels for your pelvic floor.
  • Stay “symmetrical” when sitting and standing: It’s important to keep your pelvis in a stable and even position as much as possible, so avoid sitting with crossed legs and when standing, stand with weight evenly distributed on both feet.
  • Keep weight gain in check: Excess weight puts more strain on the SI joint.
  • Avoid aggravating movements: Pay attention to the actions and movements that cause pain, and try to avoid those movements. Moves that often aggravate pain are things like stair climbing, balancing on one leg (i.e. to put pants on), swinging legs out of bed or out of a car, lunges, running, or even long periods of walking.  Remember to try to keep your weight equally distributed and your pelvis in a stable position.  So, sit down on the bed to put your pants on, swing both legs out of bed (or the car) at the same time, and perform squats instead of lunges (just one more reason why squats are soooo good to do during pregnancy!


Written by Brittany Citron, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, and a pre/postnatal exercise specialist. She is also the founder of PROnatal Fitness,  which offers prenatal and postpartum group fitness classes, personal training, and Diastasis Recti rehabilitation — all developed with input from experts in the fitness, medical, and healthcare fields. Brittany lives in Manhattan with her husband and 3-year old son, and a little girl on the way!