Dealing With Hip Pain During Pregnancy? Feel Better with These Tips and Exercises
Hip pain during pregnancy can be uncomfortable and feel limiting. Find out what exercises physical therapists recommend to help you feel better.
Pregnancy is a time of exciting change for your body. You’ll notice “butterflies” in your stomach from the baby kicking, an increased appetite, and that you’re going to the bathroom a whole lot more. You also may be prone to more aches and pains as your body adjusts to growing a new, tiny person. One common place to feel these aches is in your hips. Anywhere from a third to half of all pregnant women experience hip pain during pregnancy, and it usually hits around the second or third trimester, says Sarah Kellen, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health.
The good news is there’s a lot you can do at home, like gentle exercises and stretches, to help relieve hip pain. Hip pain during pregnancy also usually resolves once your baby’s born. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for relief.
Read on to find out more about why hip pain occurs during pregnancy and how to treat it, especially with exercises from our Hinge Health physical therapists.
Our Hinge Health Experts
Sarah Kellen, PT, DPT
Jonathan Lee, MD, MBA
Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT
Causes of Hip Pain During Pregnancy
Here are some of the most common reasons you may experience hip pain during pregnancy:
Relaxin. This is often the culprit behind early pregnancy hip pain. Relaxin is a hormone that peaks during your first trimester. It helps grow the placenta and prevents premature contractions. But as a side effect, “it also relaxes connective tissue, which leads to more stretching in your joints,” says Dr. Kellen. While this will help eventually prepare your body for labor and delivery, initially your muscles may need time to adapt to this increased joint flexibility. This can cause more muscle strain throughout the body, including in your hips.
Round ligament pain. This often crops up during the second trimester. “An increase in hormones along with the expansion of the uterus causes round ligaments to stretch,” explains Dr. Kellen. And as your uterus continues to expand during pregnancy, these round ligaments keep stretching, which can cause hip pain. You may notice it more if you move abruptly or shift your position.
Sciatica. This is pain that radiates from the spine through the hip and down the leg. Sciatica occurs when your sciatic nerve becomes irritated or inflamed. During pregnancy, it may just be the pressure of your growing uterus on the nerve that’s the main cause, says Dr. Kellen. It can occur at any point in your pregnancy, but it’s most common during the third trimester.
How to Relieve Hip Pain During Pregnancy
There’s a lot you can do to relieve hip pain during pregnancy. Here’s what Hinge Health physical therapists recommend:
Exercise therapy. Hip pain during pregnancy may mean it hurts to walk. If that’s the case for you, you may want to focus on exercises that strengthen your hip, butt, and leg muscles, says Dr. Kellen. This will in turn take pressure off your hip joint and help to relieve pain. A 2018 review in the journal Physiotherapy Research International found that exercises that stabilize the pelvic area and hip joint decrease pain and improve quality of life for pregnant women. (See our PT-approved exercises below.)
Physical therapy. A physical therapist can work with you to show you stabilizing and strengthening exercises for your hip, butt, and core muscles. These will help make your hip joint more stable and ease discomfort.
Try an SI brace. Sacroiliac belts are worn further down your hips and provide compressive support. Your physical therapist can help you figure out which one is right for you.
Over the counter pain relievers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) has been shown to be safe to use during pregnancy. Always check with your doctor before you use it.
Chiropractic adjustments, massage, or acupuncture. Chiropractic adjustments for hip pain during pregnancy may relieve pressure on nerves and tight muscles, says Dr. Kellen. Massage therapy can also be a safe (and pleasurable!) way to help relieve general body aches. A 2022 review in the British Medical Journal found acupuncture was a safe and effective way to relieve pelvic and hip pain during pregnancy. In all cases, check with your doctor first.
How Physical Therapy Helps
“Physical therapy is a first-line treatment for hip pain during pregnancy, since so much of the discomfort is musculoskeletal,” says Dr. Kellen. “Our goal is to get your lower body muscles moving and stronger to provide more support around the pelvis and hips. Once we do that, pain should naturally decrease.”
During physical therapy, a PT can assess your stance and movement patterns. If you have right hip pain during pregnancy, for example, there may be certain things that set it off. Ditto if you have it on the other side. “We want to see how you walk, lift, and carry things,” explains Dr. Kellen. This way, they’ll be able to spot potential muscle weaknesses in different areas of your body that could be causing you to put more stress on your hips. “Once we understand how your body and muscles are functioning, we can customize a strengthening and stretching program that you can continue at home,” says Dr. Kellen.
You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit. Some exercises they may recommend can be found below.
Exercises that Relieve Hip Pain During Pregnancy
These exercises are recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists to help relieve hip pain during pregnancy. They help to stretch and strengthen a range of key lower body muscles which may feel overworked as your body adjusts to pregnancy-related changes.
The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.
Hip Pain Prevention in Pregnancy
There are things you can do to help prevent hip pain in pregnancy. Hinge Health physical therapists recommend:
Staying active. Movement is medicine to the pregnant body. While it may be hard to do your usual running or spinning workouts, swimming, walking, and prenatal yoga are all great options, says Dr. Kellen.
Plumping up your sleeping position. If you’re pregnant, your doctor may recommend that you sleep on your side (and you may find that’s the most comfortable position, anyway). You can purchase a pregnancy pillow, says Dr. Kellen, or you can simply place one regular pillow between your thighs, and one lower, between your knees and shins. “This helps take pressure off your hips as you sleep,” she explains.
Striving for a healthy weight. Pregnancy comes with weight gain. And while this may look a little different for everyone, gaining too much — or too little — weight can put strain on your hips. Talk to your doctor about what’s a healthy weight gain range for you.
Trying a belly band. Some women do well with belly bands, which are pregnancy belts that help support your belly weight and take some of the pressure off the hips. They are worn low on your abdomen and help prevent hip pain by pulling your baby off your pelvis. Research suggests that they can help prevent hip aches and pains.
PT Tip: Stand Up and Stretch
This is particularly important if you are sedentary most of the day, says Dr. Kellen. “As you sit, muscles tighten up, especially your hip muscles,” she notes. If you make a point of standing up and doing some light hip stretches several times a day, it can keep your hips happy throughout your pregnancy.
How Hinge Health Can Help You
If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.
The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.
Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition.
Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.
This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.
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Bermas, B. L. (2022, June 22). Maternal Adaptations to Pregnancy: Musculoskeletal Changes and Pain. UpToDate. Retrieved from https://medilib.ir/uptodate/show/427
Yang, J., Wang, Y., Xu, J., Ou, Z., Yue, T., Mao, Z., Lin, Y., Wang, T., Shen, Z., & Dong, W. (2022). Acupuncture for low back and/or pelvic pain during pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ Open, 12(12), e056878. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-056878
Almousa, S., Lamprianidou, E., & Kitsoulis, G. (2017). The effectiveness of stabilising exercises in pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy and after delivery: A systematic review. Physiotherapy Research International, 23(1), e1699. doi:10.1002/pri.1699
Mouchantaf, M. E., Freiha, K. F., Moussa, M. K., Asfour, A. H., Yahchouchi, C., & Moussallem, C. D. (2021). Hip avascular necrosis in a healthy pregnant woman: A case report and review of literature. International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, 85, 106197. doi:10.1016/j.ijscr.2021.106197
Hall, H., Lauche, R., Adams, J., Steel, A., Broom, A., & Sibbritt, D. (2016). Healthcare utilisation of pregnant women who experience sciatica, leg cramps and/or varicose veins: A cross-sectional survey of 1835 pregnant women. Women and Birth, 29(1), 35–40. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2015.07.184
Quintero Rodriguez, C., & Troynikov, O. (2019). The Effect of Maternity Support Garments on Alleviation of Pains and Discomforts during Pregnancy: A Systematic Review. Journal of Pregnancy, 1–21. doi:10.1155/2019/2163790