Pelvic girdle pain (PGP)
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP), which is also sometimes known as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), is a condition that causes discomfort or pain in the joints at the front or back of the pelvis. It happens when the mechanical movement of the three pelvic joints becomes unstable. Women are more prone to this condition than men. It’s most common during pregnancy, but can also be the result of injury, arthritis or osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of PGP include mild to shooting pain or stiffness in the pelvis. This may include:
- Low back or hip pain when bending over
- Pain in legs, lower back or hips while walking, or climbing stairs
- Low back or hip pain while sitting, or standing on one leg
- Low back or hip pain turning over in bed
- Low back or hip pain moving your legs apart
- Back or hip pain during sex.
During pregnancy, these symptoms may develop suddenly or gradually over time. They may also get worse as your baby grows and you are bearing more weight. You may also experience symptoms like:
- Thigh pain
- Clicking or grinding in the hips and pelvis
- Perineal pain (area between the vagina and anus).
Emotional symptoms are also common during pregnancy, as physical discomfort and pain add to the challenge of day to day life. Some women find it hard to cope and may experience:
Some women even experience post traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD) following a bout of PGP.
Being pregnant is the most common cause of PGP. There are many factors involved, but among them are hormones like relaxin that are released during pregnancy to loosen the muscles and ligaments in the stomach, hips, pelvis and pelvic floor. This slackening increases your range of movement to help deliver your baby, but it also means your joints may be more unbalanced and mobile than usual, which can cause discomfort or pain. The baby’s position may also affect pelvic pain.
Other, less common, causes of PGP range from sports injuries or previous pelvic injuries, to conditions like arthritis and osteoarthritis that can lead to pelvic girdle pain. In some cases, the condition is idiopathic, which means there’s no known cause.
Who’s most at risk?
Pregnant women are significantly more likely to experience PGP. It affects about 1 in 5 expectant mums and can happen at any time during pregnancy or after delivery. You’re more likely to get PGP if you had it during a previous pregnancy, or if you’re prone to lower back pain. Other risk factors include:
- A job that involves hard, physical labour or lifting
- Being overweight or obese
- Poor sitting posture at a computer or work station.