The changes your body goes through in all stages of pregnancy and postpartum are huge. So before you jump right back into your favorite workout, there are some factors to consider to make sure you’re at your best. Kelly of Priority PT is dishing all the scoop on hip stability and running for moms pre and postpartum. She’s breaking down why hip stability is so important, what to be caution of while pregnant, and ways to help build that strength back up. We are so appreciative that Kelly is sharing such an informative post with us and we hope you find the interview below as helpful as we did!
Why is it so important to work on your hip stability?
Kelly: The pelvis is what connects your lower body and upper body together. The pelvis is made up of a right and left bones and connects to the spine at the sacrum in the back and at the pubic bone in the front. It is held together by strong ligaments and lots of muscles including the “core” muscles. The core includes your abdominal muscles, spine muscles, hip muscles, diaphragm and pelvic floor. The core and especially pelvic floor muscles are in charge of supporting your organs, stabilizing the pelvis, controlling bowel and bladder functions, sexual function and even helps with lymphatics and drain the lower body’s fluids to the upper body. WOW!!
In general, the pelvis needs to be very strong because it is what absorbs a lot of the impact and allows the pressure to be displaced appropriately before your spine takes it, controls your whole leg including your foot and DOES ALL OF THAT AWESOME STUFF! As our body changes during and after pregnancy, the ligaments are a little looser and less stable which requires your muscles to do more of the work. If you are weak, have an injury with pain, or are not quite aligned as well as we should be – the body compensates and puts the pressure elsewhere. This pressure then creates more issues (back pain, sciatica, prolapse, incontinence, SI pain, hip pain, knee cap issues (patellofemoral syndrome, IT Ban syndrome, poor knee cap tracking), foot issues (arch pain or plantar-fasciitis).
Mechanically – what happens when our hips are not strong is that the hip drops and the knee rotates inward which makes the foot fall inward and “pronate” – lots of stress in places where we are not meant to take it! This irritates the joints, muscles, bursa and ligaments around those spots that are overcompensating. TRDL – Hip stability is important because it has an impact on leaking, running, knee and hip pain and anything in that whole line of muscles and bones that work together! HOLY COW!!! Don’t you wanna get your booty in gear?!
What are some great stretches moms to be can do prenatally to improve their hip stability?
Kelly: Stretches are great for mobility, but strengthening is great for stability. The two are very intertwined. Let’s see if I can explain without making you fall asleep! So theres a saying that “a tight muscle is a weak muscle.” What do I mean by that ? Well, when a muscle is weak – it works very hard making it tighten up to help as well as muscles around it making it tighter and more painful. It’s a sweet balance. My favorites to stretch are the (1) Childs pose with knees wider than the hips forward and to the side, (2) deep squat holding onto a door frame, (3) cat/camel, (4) piriformis stretch, (5) good old fashioned Hamstring stretch, and (6) open books. My favorite strengthening exercises are (1) abdominal brace or Transverse abdominus contraction (2) brace with segmental bridge (3) clamshells (4) wall squats (5) ball squeeze.
What are some ways moms can improve their hip stability after birth?
Kelly: The same ways we can help during pregnancy is the best way afterwards as well. Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the best ways to start immediately after delivery. That naturally works the pelvic floor, abdominal muscles and helps to get the diaphragm moving again (all which were squished, stretched or had increased pressure on). A slow and controlled exhalation with gentle abdominal brace contraction is great. Small kegels or pelvic floor contractions before and after can often help to get some improved blood flow to healing or affected areas by the delivery and pregnancy. And, of course the listed above – bridges, clamshells, wall squats and ball squeezes ALL with appropriate breathing (whew..that can be a whole other topic).
Any words of caution for mamas to be who want to exercise and run while pregnant?
Kelly: Oh man yes – listen to your body. Symptoms include pressure (heaviness in your bottom, abdominal region, or pubic bone area), pain (anywhere!!), bleeding, leaking (bladder or bowel), and any other issues you notice that were not there before are signs your routine may need to be altered (any routine – not just for running). There are guidelines as a physical therapist and recommendations for a starting point that some amazing practitioners created in the UK I love to follow. They’re pretty exhaustive, but I’ll put the link here for your information.
Is there anything mamas should do after having a baby before they start back up running?
Kelly: My recommendation is to get a session with a women’s health physical therapist to assess your pelvic floor tone, your hip strength, spine and pelvic alignment, posture, breathing pattern and any other concern you may have. Create a plan of attack for increasing your strength, control and endurance. The thing most of us don’t realize is that we CANNOT just jump into running after baby because there are so many variables that typically change our pattern of running, movement and need to be addressed or at least assessed so you can be the best at your preferred sport (running, Crossfit, walking, or any other workout). There are some awesome hands-n techniques to improve alignment too to help your muscles turn on better I can do and show you how to maintain that on your own as well that a physical therapist can do to enhance/expedite the process. I work with some amazing trainers and pilates instructors who have helped supplement my plan of care and give moms a better carryover to home life with their collaboration and they can be a wealth of knowledge but they cannot assess the pelvic floor the same way we can . Also – another consideration is that mamas who are nursing typically have hormones that may allow the body to be a little more hyper mobile (think the hormones that allow for the body to separate a little to let baby come out of the birth canal) and that they need a little more time. Most moms who wean babies will have hormone changes for up to 3-4 months afterwards. Nothing to be concerned about…just a consideration. AND, last thought – diet is super important. I refer most my clients to Grace Goodwin Dwyer who’s a registerd dietician for additional support. Mom’s who nurse and who exercise need extra calories. Mom’s who are recovering from C-sections need extra nutritional support for improved healing of the scar, muscle regeneration, and overall healing – things we don’t typically think about. Some moms want to run to get back in shape – but often don’t eat enough so they’re left with a frustrating situation where they’re not seeing “results” and feeling exhausted. This is called RED-S – Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome. If we can address some of the little things before we return to running – most of the issues can be avoided!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about hip stability and running for mamas?
Kelly: If you are a little bit concerned you need some help. reach out. Sometimes just a couple sessions of hands on care or manual physical therapy followed up with some exercises and stretches you can totally get back to where you want to be. Give yourself some time and grace. Creating, delivering and caring for a new baby is hard on the body, mind, and spirit. Find your support group and be real with yourself and partner about what you are feeling and thinking. Running can be an escape, but when it begins to be a negative thing, we need to reevaluate for a bit and try something different.
Kelly, we can’t thank you enough for giving your helpful insight on hip stability and running for moms pre and postpartum! If you’re a mom in the Nashville area and looking for a great physical therapist, contact Kelly here and on Instagram!