SI joint pain during pregnancy is a very common complaint and can affect affect either a single SI joint or both SI joints at the same time. It’s commonly referred to as pregnancy related low back back pain and is something that can exist and worsen during pregnancy, or be a new complaint that starts during pregnancy. It’s sometimes accompanied by sciatic nerve pain in the buttocks or down the back of the leg.

Although SI joint pain during pregnancy is considered common, that doesn’t mean that you need to suffer through it for the rest of your pregnancy. There are a number of effective strategies you can try to relieve it and make your pregnancy more comfortable. In this content I’ll outline:

  • Why do my SI joints hurt when I’m pregnant?
  • What does SI joint pain during pregnancy feel like?
  • What are treatments for SI joint pain and pregnancy-related low back pain during pregnancy?

Why do my SI joints Hurt When I’m Pregnant?

SI joint pain during pregnancy is caused by several factors that mostly have to do with the structure of your spine and how it changes during pregnancy.

  • Normal weight gain that comes with pregnancy puts stress (load) on your spinal joints, especially the SI joints and joints of your lower back.
  • Your center of gravity shifts forward, which in turn, puts increased load and pressure on your SI joints, low back spinal joints, and even your hips.
  • The way you walk and move also changes to accommodate for your pregnancy, which causes compressive forces in your hips to change.
  • The biggest culprit of SI joint pain is probably the hormone Relaxin. This pregnancy hormone is a necessary hormone during pregnancy as it allows your joints to loosen and expand in order to accommodate a growing baby. However, this causes “looser” joints that don’t have as much support as they had before. This can lead to joint instability and subsequent SI joint pain.

There are a number of other factors that influence why you might have SI joint pain during pregnancy. One of the big ones is if you’ve had lower back pain before your pregnancy. If you’ve had lower back pain before, it doubles the chances that you’ll have low back pain during pregnancy.

If you’re early on if your pregnancy, hopefully you’ll make it through 9 months with no back pain. However, we do know from research that pregnancy-related low back pain typically starts between the fifth and seventh months. It may help to get ahead of it by trying some of the strategies I discuss later in this article. These might keep you from getting SI joint pain or low back pain during pregnancy, or at least make it not quite so bothersome.

What Does SI Joint Pain During Pregnancy Feel Like?

An explanation of SI joint pain during pregnancy starts with understanding what the SI joints actually are and where they’re located.

You have two SI joints which are located in your lower back and pelvis area. If you put your hands in a U shape around your hips your thumbs will touch two big joints near the center of your low back. These are your SI joints, the biggest joints in your spine. They’re the meeting of your sacrum and your ilum (pelvic) bones. 

Sometimes you may feel pain right in the middle at the junction where your lumbar spine and sacrum meet. Other times your pain may be on one side more than the other, or you may have pain equally in both SI joints. SI joint dysfunction can also present as pure low back pain, hip pain, or pain into the thigh or upper leg.

SI Joint Pain During Pregnancy Treatment

If you’re having SI joint pain early on during your pregnancy you may feel like you are doomed to suffer for months and months more. Fret not, you’re not doomed. There are plenty of strategies that are safe and effective during pregnancy to relieve SI joint discomfort. Let me dive into a couple of options you can try for relieving SI joint pain during your pregnancy:

  • Strengthening exercises that target the SI joints and other joints of the lower back, pelvis, and hips can create more stability in the area. Relaxin is going to do what Relaxin does, which is create laxity. There’s nothing we can do about that, and your body needs that to accomodate your baby. We can combat the hypermobility with strengthing exercises, however. Check out the video below and try of the beginner exercises for SI joint pain during pregancy.

Want some more guidance on exercises to relieve low back pain during pregnancy? Follow this link to a blog I wrote specifically on this topic –> Low Back Exercises for Pregnancy

  • A chiropractor for pregnancy related conditions is a valuable resource for knowledge and treatment. Your OB has everything under control, but they don’t have a lot of treatment options for your SI joint pain. This is where a chiropractor can come in handy. Chiropractic adjustments can help keep your SI joints positioned, and chiropractic adjustments can give you a great deal of PAIN RELIEF.

Research has shown that almost 75% of women undergoing chiropractic manipulation report significant pain reduction and clinically significant improvements in disability.

Are you wondering whether chiropractic care is really safe when your pregnant? Of course you want to make sure that anything your doing is good for you and your baby. The good news is that chiropractic care during pregnancy is extremely safe. That’s why a lot of OB doctors and midwifes recommend it. In fact, over 90% of prenatal healthcare providers are willing to recommend non-pharmacologic treatment, including alternative therapies.

If there was significant risk, nobody would be recommending it. Don’t take my word for it, here’s a library of research discussing treatment and safety –> Evidence Based Chiropractic: Pregnancy & Women’s Health

  • Stretching your lower back, hips, and legs can help ease pregnancy related complaints like SI joint pain. A chiropractic physician who’s experienced in treating pregnant patients is again a good resource for developing a plan of home stretches. Typically they’ll combine stretches with strengthening and chiropractic adjustments for best results.
  • Moderate intensity aerobic exercise can also help relieve back pain and help with a healthy pregnancy. Don’t start a vigorous exercise program when you’re pregnancy, but shoot for 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. In addition to musculoskeletal benefits, ongoing exercise during pregnancy decreases one’s risk of excessive weight gain, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and pre-term birth, while improving self-image and pain tolerance.

Can you do CrossFit while pregnant? I did, and in I wrote a blog that covers some tips regarding CrossFit and pregnancy here –> Can I do CrossFit While Pregnant?

Are you wondering how to modify CrossFit for pregnancy? I wrote a piece on that subject in my blog here –> How to Modify your CrossFit Workout While Pregnant

Should I See a Chiropractor During Pregnancy?

If you’re struggling with SI joint pain during pregnancy, chiropractic care is a safe and effective treatment option that’s supported by research. I provide chiropractic care for pregnant women in the Cary, North Carolina area who are looking to have a healthy and comfortable pregnancy, so I’d say “Yes.” I’m experienced in treating SI joint pain during pregnancy, low back pain during pregnancy, and other pregnancy related conditions and have really enjoyed seeing the improvement my patients make.

If you’re considering chiropractic care for pregnancy in Cary, Apex, or the Raleigh area, feel free to give my office a call. I certainly don’t mind answering some of your questions and concerns.

Dr. Brianna Williams DC is a chiropractic physician practicing at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. She treats neuromusculoskeletal pain and injuries using chiropractic manipulation, Graston Technique, and rehab exercise strategies. She holds a PSP certification from the University of Pittsburgh and is the only one with this honor in the Raleigh, Cary, and Apex areas. She's also experienced in treating pregnant women, especially those who're exercising and want to stay moving during their pregnancy.