Got your attention? It will all make sense by the end. Let’s review our anatomy.
As you progress through pregnancy, your connective tissues become more and more loosey-goosey (technical term). This is a good thing! Loose ligaments allow the joints of your pelvis to open up and expand. On the day you welcome baby into the world, you want your pelvis to open up and expand. The tricky part is that this loosening (triggered primary by changes in certain hormone levels) is not specific to your pelvis. All of your ligaments and connective tissue all throughout your body are going through the same process.
Like I mentioned, this extraordinary capacity to expand is absolutely awesome for the big day, but in the mean time, it has the tendency to cause some drama. The progressive loosening of your ligaments allows more potential movement in your joints. By its self, that is not a bad thing. It’s kind of a goldilocks scenario. You don’t want to be stiff, rigid, and fused, but you also don’t want to be so loose that your joints become unstable. We want everything to be just right.
This is where your muscles come in. If you have perfect muscle tone and no movement dysfunctions, there won’t be any issues. As your ligaments become lax, your muscles will graciously pick up the slack and provide the perfect blend stability and movement. If things start moving around too much, you don’t have good brain-body communication, and your muscles don’t have good muscle tone, then your brain interprets that as instability and it freaks out. Your brain just wants to feel safe, stable, and secure. So how does it respond? It “braces” the seemingly unstable area. Basically, it creates a muscle spasm to tighten around the loose joint so that it knows it is secure and it has feedback from that area.
This is probably the most common reason for pain complaints during pregnancy. It is tied to so many different structural problems, from low back pain and SI joint/tail bone pain, to sciatica and pubic symphysis dysfunction. If things are too loosey-goosey (again, very technical) and we haven’t prepared our bodies for the athletic event of pregnancy, then our brain initiates an over-response to establish security, regardless of the discomfort it may cause you in the mean time.
The good news is, we can work with this. Obviously, it is best to train for the marathon before race day, which I why I am including this conversation in my baby-body-prep pre-fertility blog. (Don’t worry; even if you didn’t prepare in advance you can still received considerable relief from these neuromusculoskeletal reactions.) Your next step: become best friends with your butt.
Your gluteal muscles (glutes, butt, bum, behind, backside, caboose, etc.) are a very important muscle group. They cross the SI joints and can provide functional stability to the lumbo-pelvic-hip girdle. As the ligaments that stabilize your body’s largest joints (the sacroiliac joints in your pelvis) loosen up, it is your glutes that pick up the slack. So either they have a “just-right” muscle tone that keeps your joints moving and your brain happy, or they go into reactive spasm to satisfy your brain’s need for stability.
SO work your glutes! Here are my top picks to get you started.
Joint restrictions and movement dysfunctions will greatly add to this dynamic. This is where chiro, physio, and functional movement training (like the FMS or SFMA) come in to play. Start working on these areas now. It is so much easier to maintain the work you do pre-pregnancy that it is to try to fix a dysfunctional pattern while your body is on a wild roller coaster ride of hormone shifts and biomechanics changes. It can also make recovery time shorter and have you chasing toddlers around with more ease. Basically, it is good for every stage of life, from pre-fertility to keeping up with the munchkins, so do yourself the major favour and start working on it now.