I am a chiropractor and this is my personal story of the treatments that helped my pelvic girdle pain (pgp/spd). As a chiropractor I had treated many women for PGP/SPD. But when I suffered with it when I was pregnant I gained a whole new understanding of it. As well as the need to have relief from PGP.
For those of you new to the subject of pelvic girdle pain or as it used to be called symphysis pubis dysfunction or SPD for short. It is a painful condition that most commonly occurs in pregnancy. It usually starts around the 20th week of pregnancy although it can start much earlier. I believe mine started at around 4 weeks but more on that later.
Although some cases of PGP/SPD are hormonal the vast majority of them are more due to biomechanics and pressure on how the pelvis changes during pregnancy. The pelvis is a ring structure with two joints (the sacroiliac joints at the back) and one joint the pubic symphysis joint at the front. For the pelvis to work well all these joints need to have the correct amount of movement in them. The sacroiliac joints at the back have more movement than the symphysis pubis joint at the front.
The trouble during pregnancy is that due to the extra pressure placed on the pelvis during the changes that happen in the body the way in which these joints work can change. Often the sacroiliac joints at the back can tighten up, usually on one side more than the other. This can lead to more pressure being placed on the symphsis pubis joint at the front – which can be incredibly painful.
The best way I can describe this pain is a sharp shooting pain that shoots up the front part of your pelvis – at best it is very painful…..at worst it can be impossible to stand. It makes it difficult to push shopping trolleys, turn over in bed and sometimes even just to stand up and walk.
Now as I said earlier I believe my pgp started very early in my pregnancy at around 4 weeks. Now the chiropractor in me is quite disbelieving of this and thinks possibly it was more psychosomatic as I had just found out I was pregnant and was giving a talk to the Pelvic Partnership (a support group for women with pgp/spd) about chiropractic treatment of pgp.
Whether it was psychosomatic or not by 16 weeks I definitely had pgp and it was beginning to affect my everyday life (or my activities of daily living (ADLs) if you are a healthcare professional). It was probably not helped by my work as a chiropractor which meant I spent a large portion of my time at work side posturing patients. If you have not had chiropractic treatment before then a side posture adjustment involves the chiropractor standing on one leg and adjusting the patient when they are lying on their side. One of the many tips I tell women with pgp is not to stand on one leg and put unequal forces through their pelvis. The 45 minute commute each way did not help much either.
But which treatments helped my pelvic girdle pain?
The first treatment that helped my pelvic girdle pain was chiropractic care. There is probably not much surprise there. I am a chiropractor so I was obviously going to try chiropractic care. I had treatment with Caroline Shanks from Oxford Central Chiropractic Clinic, she was brilliant, It did help a lot. Research shows that manual therapy is good at treating pelvic girdle pain. I had regular treatment throughout my pregnancy and it gave me a lot of relief from my pgp and allowed me to carry on working until 36 weeks pregnant despite the constant standing on one leg.
I also found that gentle pilates and stretching exercises really helped. I did find it difficult to exercise during my pregnancy but when I wasn’t too tired or feeling too much like a waddling duck I did find that a short amount of light pilates and stretching helped my pelvis.
The annoying thing about pgp is that it can continue post pregnancy. It does not in most cases but in 20% it does and it did in my case. Partly I think due to scar tissue for the c- section I had to deliver my son. The pain was by no means as bad or as frequent but it was there. I especially noticed it after gardening or a lot of walking. I continued with the chiropractic care and gentle exercise but it still continued. The treatment that helped my pelvic girdle pain improve from this point onwards was soft tissue therapy to my c – section scar and other surrounding muscles by a wonderful physio Alison Nuttall. It really provided relief for the last 10 – 15% of the pgp pain I was experiencing.
Pgp in my second pregnancy.
A few years after I had my son we decided to have another baby. My pgp did return but not as badly. I had opened my own practice in Newbury so my commute was only around 5 minutes compared to 45 minutes to Oxford and I had strengthened my core to help my back be as strong as possible. During this pregnancy I continued to be active, especially as I had a 3 year old to chase around after. Chiropractic care and gentle pilates helped me through this pregnancy as well.
Although I still get the occasional pain from my pgp I would say it is 90% better than it was during my first pregnancy. I try to exercise my core regulary and keep up with my chiropractic care and that seems to keep it at bay.
In conclusion the main treatments that helped my pelvic girdle pain were chiropractic care, gentle stretching and pilates and soft tissue work to my c – section scar and surrounding muscles.
I hope that information is helpful, if you have any questions you can email me or call me on 01635 791 301.