It doesn’t really matter does it?
You try to sit differently; but the pain still comes.
You try to walk, move, stretch; but the pain still comes.
You even prop yourself up with pillows to try to find a comfortable way to sleep; but the pain still comes.
Will it ever get better?
Whether you’re newly pregnant, very pregnant, or already had your baby (even months ago) back pain is an (unfortunately) super common experience for an estimated 50-80% of mamas.
And one of the most common sources of that pain is the finicky little SI joint.
There are a few reasons this joint can cause you so much agony, and a few ways you can help relieve the pain.
Before we dive into the why and solutions, though, we first have to tackle the what – is the pain you’re experiencing actually SI joint pain? Or something else?
Here Are Some Hints That You’ve Got SI Joint Pain
The sacroiliac (or SI) joint is where your sacrum (the bony bit above your tailbone) attaches to your illium (your hip bones) with the help of some strong ligaments.
If you put your hands just above your booty you might be able to find a bony something in the middle of your very low back (that’s your sacrum).
On either side of that bony part you’ll find two dimples, or grooves in your lower back. Your SI joints are just beside these grooves.
(If this sounds like Klingon to you, hang in there. Things get easier to understand from here on out 😉 ).
Now here’s something to keep in mind – just because this is where your SI joints are, doesn’t mean that that’s where your pain is, or that the pain will stay in that one area.
And if you’re getting pain in that area, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s your SI joints that are causing the mischief.
The truth is that back pain is a tricky issue. What may seem like one issue, can actually be a whole other bother altogether.
It could be pretty darn easy to mistake tailbone issues or sciatica as SI joint pain.
This is why it’s important you find a pro (like a physiotherapist or physical therapist or osteopath) who can help diagnose and treat you.
I’m not a doctor. That means I’m not here to diagnose and treat you. My intention with this post is to give you some (hopefully) helpful info.
But please don’t diagnose yourself or jump to conclusions – especially if your back pain is impacting your every day life.
Go get help. Don’t suffer. Make an appointment right now. I’ll wait 🙂
Got it in the calendar? Cool. Let’s continue.
So generally speaking, these could be some hint-hint, nudge-nudges that your SI joints are acting like an obnoxious toddler hopped up on ketchup:
- You have a dull or sharp pain in your lower back or booty – this could be on one or both sides of your spine
- Standing up or walking feels painful
- Your hips feel stiff and inflexible
- There’s pain around your hips, booty and groin
- You get pain, numbness or a tingling sensation down one or both legs
Of course you could get some of these, all of these, or completely different signs. This is why it’s important you get in to see someone who can get their hands on you and figure out exactly what’s going on.
What Causes SI Joint Pain?
There could be a few different reasons you’re getting that awful pain.
Some mamas get pain almost immediately after they find out they’re pregnant – which could mean that it’s a hormonal issue.
Your pregnancy hormones can make your hip joints and connective tissues more mobile and bendy. This can make it easier for everything to get out of alignment – which can cause some inflammation and pain.
Other mamas don’t start developing the pain until later in their pregnancy – which could mean that the growing baby is putting some stress on the pelvis and connective tissues.
And, as your baby grows, your center of gravity starts to cascade forward which can increase the pressure and force on your low back.
Then there are the mamas who are hoping that once baby is born their pain will go away but it doesn’t – which could mean that there are some alignment or strength and flexibility issues going on.
After pregnancy we need to work on restoring your core and pelvic floor function so that your pelvis is properly supported and stabilized. And we want to make sure your alignment is spot on so that your low back isn’t left to pick up the slack of other muscles not doing their job correctly.
However you slice and dice it, whatever is causing it, it’s not fun.
And you shouldn’t (and don’t) have to live with it.
3 Ways You Can Help Relieve The Pain
Like almost all aches and pains in your body you can help relieve SI joint issues (and honestly most other causes of back pain) using the MAS protocol:
1. Move Better
When you have back pain it can seem like a really good idea to rest and ice and medicate and hope that the pain will go away. And yes – rest can be super important for recovery in some situations.
But the problem is that you’re a mom. You need to be able to move – as pain-free as possible.
Which is why it’s important you learn how to move better so that your body becomes strong and flexible in all the right ways.
And one of the first places you can focus on moving better is how you walk.
Being a mom means you do a ton of walking – around the house, around the block, around the nursery trying to get the munchkin back to sleep.
But if you have SI joint issues, walking can be painful. Sometimes excruciating.
So here are some simple tips to help ease the discomfort:
Walk less. If you get pain with walking, try to walk less. You don’t have to stop walking altogether. Just less. I know that an afternoon walk can feel like a nice break and stress reliever when you have a new baby – or even a toddler. But if you notice you get pain after say 20 minutes of walking, aim for a 15 minute walk instead.
Remember, this isn’t forever. Just for right now. As you work with a pro to strengthen and stretch all the right areas, and focus on your alignment, you will start to heal and be able to walk for longer distances. But for right now, just do what you can and don’t push yourself to the point of pain.
Walk slower. You don’t have to be huffing and puffing to get the benefits of walking. Give yourself some grace and slow down. You may find your pain doesn’t come on as often or as bad if you’re more like the turtle than the hare.
Walk differently. Wider steps can put more pressure and strain on your pelvis and SI joints so play around with your stride. Take shorter steps and maybe your SI joints will be happier.
As you progress your recovery with a pro, work on alignment, and strengthen your muscles, you’ll be able to get back into longer, more strenuous walks (and even running) just cut yourself some slack right now and give your body the space it needs to recover.
(Stay tuned. I’ve got more tips on some specific strength training exercises that can help below).
2. Get Into Optimal Alignment
When you’re sitting, standing, walking and lifting (even a small baby or light toy) you want to be aware of how your body is aligned.
This is such a boring topic that pretty much no one likes to focus on because it’s not as sexy as a #plankchallenge.
But think about it – say you’re building a LEGO tower with your little and you stack the blocks one on top of the other all willy-nilly like. It’s not going to be very stable is it? One good toddler smack and that bad boy is coming down.
But if you focus on putting those blocks in optimal alignment they’re going to be able to withstand toddler-zilla a lot easier, right?
This is your body (in LEGO form).
The better aligned we can get, the stronger you’re going to be. And the less likely you’ll have to deal with constant back aches and excruciating pain.
The truth is that you’re a mom and there are going to be times when you’re in crazy awkward positions – lifting, twisting, pulling, pushing – so you’re not going to be in perfect alignment all the time.
That’s okay. That’s one reason why we strength train – so that your body is strong and flexible enough handle those temporary moments of less than ideal alignment.
But we want to try our darnedest to focus on optimal alignment whenever we can.
For most people, in most situations that looks something like this:
:: Back yourself up so your weight is more evenly distributed into the middle part of your foot instead of your toes.
:: Try to evenly divvy up the weight on all sides of your body – side-to-side and front-to-back. (So you’re not constantly leaning to one side or pushing your belly forward – which is really easy to do as a mom with a babe on your hip or in your arms. It’s not that you can’t ever stand with your hip jutted out to one side, just try to not do it all the time).
:: Drop your ribs and stack them over top of your hips so that you’re not sticking your chest out like an angry gorilla (this is so key for a properly working pelvic floor).
:: Untuck your booty (even when you’re sitting – tilt your pelvis back and sit on your “sitz” or “sit” bones not the fleshy part of your butt).
Remember – you don’t have to be perfect all the time. Just work on getting into as optimal alignment as you can most of the time.
3. Strengthen Your Core
One reason you could be experiencing SI joint pain is that your pelvis isn’t properly stabilized because your core isn’t as strong as it could be.
So strengthening your #core4 (pelvic floor, butt, abs and back muscles) can help alleviate the pain.
But before we dive into the exercises, we want to start with breathing well and properly engaging our core (instead of just sucking our bellies to our spine).
How we breathe can absolutely affect how well our pelvis is functioning in relation to the rest of our body so don’t skip this part (even though I know it’s as boring as the alignment stuff. It’s boring, but key).
Two of the most important things you want to keep in mind when you’re exercising is that you want to:
1. Not hold your breath.
2. Breathe out when you do the hardest part of the exercise.
There are so many great core exercises you can do to help alleviate back pain, here are 3 of my fave no-equipment-needed go-tos you can do during and after pregnancy:
1. Start by laying down on your back in a comfortable position, with a neutral spine (you’re not trying to flatten your low back toward the floor).
2. Bring both legs up towards your chest, keeping them bent. The closer your legs are to your chest, the easier the exercise will be. The farther your legs are away from your chest, the harder the exercise will be.
3. Slowly (and I do mean slowly – don’t rush through this) lower one foot toward the floor trying to keep your pelvis as still as possible.
4. Bring it back up then do the same thing on the other side.
1. On your back, bring your feet in toward your booty so that your heels are underneath your knees.
2. Keeping your butt untucked, push through your heels and lift your hips up toward the ceiling.
3. You can squeeze your booty at the top to get some extra activation, then come back down and repeat.
1. Lay down on your side and rest your head on your hand, or on your arm on the floor.
2. Bend your knees up towards your chest and stack your ankles, hips, back and shoulders in one long line.
3. Keeping your hips still, and ankles together, slowly lift your top knee up like you’re opening a book. Your top hip shouldn’t move or shift.
4. Do a few reps on one side then repeat the exercise on the other side of your body.
Remember – spending a few minutes away from your tiny human to exercise and take care of yourself doesn’t make you a bad mom.
And the truth is you can be a far more attentive, and happy mom when you’re feeling good, then when you’re constantly dealing with pain.
So make an appointment to get your back and pelvic health checked out before it gets any worse and takes over even more of your life.
And help yourself get closer to being pain-free by trying some (or all) of the strategies we talked about.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
What one tip (let’s keep it simple) are you going to add into your life starting today to help relieve your back pain?
Thank you so much for reading, commenting and being in the SweetMomBod tribe. It’s pretty awesome that you’re here.
P.S. Did you like this post? Share it with your mama friends – especially any of ’em who are dealing with back pain!
You can use the social sharing links at the top and bottom of this post, or just copy the link and share it in your mom text group. Thank you for spreading the love!
Hello lovely, thank you for this awesome article! Just checking, are the exercises okay in pregnancy? Thank you!
Jenna Dalton says
Hey Mel! You’re so welcome!
Yes – all of these are great exercises to try during pregnancy as long as they feel good on your body and you don’t have any issues or conditions that has your dr saying “Don’t do ’em!” 🙂
FYI As long as you feel comfortable being on your back for a minute or two it’s perfectly safe for most pregnant women to lay on their backs. Just pay attention to any dizziness, nausea, that kind of thing that might creep up saying your body isn’t a fan of you being on your back while pregnant.
Jane Fagan says
Thanks for this article – so true that mums need to bend and keeping moving is good.
Have made appointment to determine if is sacroiliac joint causing me pain so I won’t be up all night. Hydro pool is good – I also have a herniated disc l4-l5 with nerve compression. Ouch but it’s slowlt improving.
Jenna Dalton says
You’re so welcome, Jane. I’m glad you’re working on getting to the bottom of what’s going on for you. It’s easy to get caught up in taking care of baby when we need to be a priority too 🙂 I hope you get the support you need to feel better!
Thank you these exercises are great and actually give me some pain relief! Can I ask how many repetitions of each you should ideally do?
Jenna Dalton says
I’m so happy to hear they’re helping, Natalie! I would probably do around 8-12 reps of each exercise 1-3 times. Focus on really great form and alignment and do what you feel your body is capable of – challenging yourself without overdoing it is my go-to strategy 🙂
When you say make an appointment to get checked out, is that with a PT or my primary dr?
Jenna Dalton says
Honestly it’s with whomever feels most relevant/helpful for you, Sam. PT, chiro, massage, family doctor, all of these pros could have helpful suggestions/treatment options. And a lot of times getting help from more than one pro is the best option so start with the pro that feels like the best choice right now and go from there 🙂
This is really helpful. I’ve been to my doctor and physio and they were saying two different diagnosis. I get pain when aggravated either by turning, walking or bending. Do i have to do stretching even if i feel pain or do i have to take a rest until it gets settled? Your answer would really help.
Jenna Dalton says
While I would love to help give you a solid answer, the truth is that it depends. Not knowing your diagnosis and what is causing your pain makes it challenging for me to give you the appropriate answer.
Have you tried getting a third opinion from another physio? While it’s annoying to have to go to multiple places, that may give you the answers you’re looking for. Good luck!