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Yoga Poses and Exercises to Help Ease Pain from Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction

April 8, 2013

Pubic Symphysis Dysfuction (PSD), sometimes referred to as Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) occurs when the two halves of the pelvis become misaligned.  This happens in pregnancy because the hormones of pregnancy loosen the joint called the pubis symphysis which is normally supported by a dense network of tough tissues called ligaments.  Ligaments are not naturally flexible.  However the hormone relaxin which your body releases in significant amounts during pregnancy softens all tissues including ligaments.  This overall, is a good thing and allows your baby to more easily slip through the bones of the pelvis during birth.  That being said, for some women, all that relaxin along with the hormone progesterone can cause a great deal of instability in the joint resulting in pain and inflammation.  The pain is most common in the front of the pelvis, but sometimes also occurs in the back of the pelvis on either side of the sacrum (that flat part of the lower back).

Many of the exercises and yoga postures typically done in prenatal yoga or in prenatal exercise classes actually aggravate the pain.  But there is hope.  The yoga sequence below will not only help you feel better physically, but also help to restore your faith in your body and it’s ability to do this crazy and amazing thing called pregnancy.

The movements below can not realign the joint or tighten the loosened ligaments.  However they help all the same.  They help because they stabilize the pelvis by strengthening the muscles that support it.  Many of the postures below strengthen the public floor and the core muscles in particular.

For the greatest benefit, print out this blog post and do this yoga sequence daily.  If you don’t have enough time to do the entire sequence, simply move through the starred postures.  And as any yoga teacher will tell you, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  If anything feels wrong – stop – and re-adjust.  If it still doesn’t feel right, skip it and move onto the next pose.

star-little  1. Tadasana : Mountain or Standing Pose

- engage pelvic floor muscles and gluts (this means pull them in, up and together).  Hold for one complete breath.  Repeat 5 times.

tadasana-yoga-pubic-symphysis

2. Partner Partial Downward Dog Stretch

- use the weight of the other person to help you stretch your shoulder, down your back and through the hamstrings.  Hold each others’ wrists and lend back.  You can do this on your own by putting your finger tips in the sink, hanging on and leaning back.  You can even do this stretch just using a wall – but a kitchen sink is better and having a partner is better still.

partial-downwarddog-yoga-pubis-symphysisdownward dog at wall yoga pubic symphysis

3. Parsvottonasana – Intense Side Stretch

The worse your experience of SPD – the gentler you go in this pose, by keeping your feet no more that hip distance wide apart.  It’s also really really important that you keep your hips and shoulders level with the floor in this pose.

parsvottonasana yoga pubis symphysisparsvottonasana front view yoga pubis symphysis

star-little  4. Ardha Utkatasana – Chair Pose

- stand and lower hips and keep knees hip width apart.  Draw the navel slightly in to engage the transverse abdominal muscles and keep your low back in neutral – not flexed or rounded.  Arm can extend up by your ears or out in front of you.

Ardha Utkatasana Chair Pose 1 Yoga Pubis SymphysisArdha Utkatasana Chair 2 Yoga Pubic Symphysis

5. Ardha Utkatasana – Chair Pose at Wall with Pelvic Tilts

- Start by standing against a wall with feet about a foot or two feet away from the wall.  Slowly lower your body into chair pose leaning back against the wall.  The lower you drop your hips the most intense this posture will become.  Make sure you are barefooted to that you are stable into this posture.  Then add in the pelvic tilts.  To do this, simply exhale and push the small of your back into the wall, inhale and release the lower back (it will left off the wall) and then repeat.  Pelvic tilts are a great way to maintain core and abdominal strength during pregnancy.  To increase intensity – raise your arms above your head as you do this posture.

chair against wall pelvic tilt yoga pubic symphysis

Chair Against Wall Arms Above Head

pelvic tilt prenatal yoga

star-little   6. Seated Inner Thigh Strengthening Exercise

- Sit down on a chair and place one fist between your knees.  Squeeze your thighs together, hold for 5 breaths and then slowly release on an exhale.  Repeat with both fists between your knees.  If you own a foam yoga block, place it between your knees instead.

Inner Thigh Strengthening Exercise Prenatal

Inner Thigh Strengthening PoseInner Thigh Exercise for Pregnancy

7. Urdhva Mukha Dandasana  : Staff or Rod Pose

- This pose may not look like much, but it actually takes a lot of core strength to sit up straight.  Place a block or rolled up blanket under your hips to raise them up a bit and help you sit up straight.  While in this posture, pull in your naval (giving baby a little hug in the process) and pull up your pelvic floor.  Hold for 5 breaths and release.  Relax and curl your back and then repeat.

dandasana prenatal yoga

8.  Seated Forward Fold

Typically in prenatal yoga, forward folds or bends are done with the legs apart to accommodate the belly and baby.  With SPD spreading the legs apart came mean TROUBLE – which you have probably already discovered.  To create a bit more space, sit on a yoga block or a rolled up blanket to lift your hips off the ground.  Wrap a belt around the balls on your feet and gently bend forward.  Keep extending out though the heels and keep the feet flexed. Press the sit bones down into the block, draw the
sacrum in and lift the whole spine to the crown of the head as you bend.  This is a wonderful release for the hamstring muscles.

Seated Forward Fold Prenatal Yoga

star-little   9.  Bharadvajasana  – Seated Twist

Sit with a folded blanket or yoga block under one hip, bend knees and let the feet go to the opposite side.  Inhale and focus on extending up through the crown of your head, exhale and twist your upper body in the direction of the block and away from your feet.  With every inhale, get taller and with each exhalation twist more deeply.   Hold for 5 breathes and then repeat on the other side.  Alternatively you can do this stretch seated in a chair or on an exercise ball.   As a side note – this twist is safe in pregnancy because you are twisting towards an open space and it allows for greater space and length in the front of the body.  It’s also a lovely release for the shoulder blade area, which generally becomes tight as the weight of the baby tends to hunch the whole body forward.

Safe Prenatal Yoga Twist for Pregnancy

Safe Twist Pregnancy Yoga on Ball

star-little   10.  Marjaryasana – Cat Stretch

Get down onto your hands and knees and level your back so that it is roughly flat. Breathe in and then as you breathe out, squeeze in your pelvic floor muscles and pull your belly button in and up.  This is curl your back up towards the ceiling.  Hold this contraction for between five and 10 seconds, breathing through it. Relax your muscles slowly at the end of hold and return to neutral position.  For most pregnant women, arching or swaying the back will be too much for the low back and cause discomfort, so returning to neutral position between the curls is generally best.  Alternatively this same stretch can be done seated on a chair or on an exercise ball.

Cat stretch yoga pregnancy

Cat Stretch Curl Yoga PrenatalYou can also do the cat stretch seated on a chair or exercise ball.  This is a great stretch to do at work as it is pretty discreet and will really help your back feel better.  :)   This takes the weight of your baby off your pelvis and holds it in a stable position.

Pelvic tilt on ball prenatal yoga concavePelvic tilt on ball prenatal yoga convex

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11.  Chakravakasana – Adapted SunBird Pose

Get down onto your hands and knees, draw the naval slightly in as if you are giving baby a hug to help to stabilize the core of the body.  Lift one knee off the ground slightly and stretch the opposite arm out in front of you.  Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.  This position is more challenging that some of the others listed.  Please back off if it doesn’t feel right.

sunbird-pregnancy

star-little   12. Bridge Pose – Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

To begin, lie on your back (don’t worry – we are going to stay there)  with your knees bent and your feet hip distance apart on the floor under your knees.  Exhale and press the small of your back into the floor.  Notice how your tailbone lifts off the ground as you do this.  Keeping the knees straight in front of you, hip distance part, lift the tailbone off the floor.  Continue to rise, one vertebra at a time until you are resting on your feet and shoulder blades.  Remain there for two breathes, and then slowly lower with control as if you are setting each vertebra from the shoulder to the tailbone down one at a time.  You will be need to use your abdominal muscles to do this, much is why it’s such a great pose to stabilizing and activating the core muscles.

bridge pose prenatal yogabridge pose prenatal yoga 2

13. Virasana – Hero Pose and Parvatasana in Virasana – Hero Pose  with Interlocked Fingers

Seat with folded blankets, a bolster or foam blocks between your feet.  If you experience discomfort in your knees, adding extra height will generally make the knees happy.  Knees should be hip width apart.  Sit nice and tall, stretching up through the crown of the head and bring the shoulder blades in together to open the chest.  On an inhalation, interlock the fingers and lift the arms over
the head keeping the elbows in line with the ears. Release the arms, change the interlock of the fingers and repeat.

hero pose yoga pregnancyhero pose pregnancy with armshero pose prenatal yoga arms

star-little  14. Adho Mukha Virasana – Child’s Pose or Down Facing Hero Pose

For this posture it’s best to have lots of cushions, bolsters and blankets.  It might seem like a lot of trouble, but trust me, it’s definitely worth it.  This is one of the most restorative poses out there, and the release for the low back is just awesome! Start by sitting on the heels with the knees slightly wider than the hips. If having the knees wide aggravates the SPD pain, then keep the knees together and rest the head forward on the seat of a chair or on a pile of bolsters as shown in the photo.

child's pose prenatal yoga

star-little   star-little 15. Savasana – Relaxation Pose

Ahhh the resting pose.  During pregnancy savasana is done in a side lying position as being flat on your back in not recommended.   Fold a blanket beneath you to provide extra cushioning.  Place a foam block or folded blankets beneath your head (if you nose lines up with the center of your chest – your alignment is good).  Finally place a folded blanket or foam block between your knees – so that the upper knee is in line horizontally with the top hip.    It is entirely possible, that there will be some days especially later in the pregnancy, when this is the only posture that you are able do.  That is just fine.  Taking time out to rest and restore your energy is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby.

pregnancy savasana

Important Note : In addition to the yoga postures and exercises listed below, I also recommend you receive treatment from a physiotherapist, chiropractor and osteopath to deal with the misalignment and asymmetry of the joint.  Find someone in your area who specializes in prenatal and postnatal work.

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Essential Oils :   If you are open to other alternative therapies, there are two essentialdeepBlue_doterras oils are very helpful.  The first is frankincense.  Yes doTerra_Frankincensethe one that the wise men gave to baby Jesus.  Frankincense is extremely good for inflammation.  The second is an oil blend made by DoTerra called Deep Blue which includes wintergreen, camphor,  peppermint, blue tansy, blue chamomile, helichrysum and osmanthus, all of which have analgesic properties in the oils’ chemical constituents.  These are synergistically combined to provide relief from inflammation and its associated pain.  You can simply and safely rub these two oils where it hurts and it will make a big difference fast.

Other Helpful Tips for Daily Living…

  • Avoid moving your legs apart when you are lying down. When you are getting in and out of the car, bed or bathtub, take extra care to keep your knees together as much as possible.  If you are lying down, pulling your knees up as far as you can stops your pelvis from moving and makes it easier to part your legs. If you are sitting, try arching your back and sticking your chest out before parting or moving your legs.
  • When you get dressed in the morning – make sure you sit down to put on your pants.
  • This one is probably the most important : LISTEN TO YOUR BODY – listen to any pain…  If something hurts, if possible, don’t do it. If the pain is allowed to flare up, it can take a long time to settle down again.
  • Move often but focus on small movements.
  • Listen for the stable clues that you are aggravating it, sometimes if you don’t pay attention during the day, you may not feel the effects of what you are doing until later in the day or after you laid down to go to sleep.
  • When climbing stairs, take one step at a time. Step up onto one step with your best leg and then bring your other leg to meet it. Repeat with each step.
  • Avoid swimming the breaststroke and take care with other strokes.  The best is to put water wings on your feet and tie your feet together and use only your upper body to pull you through the water, using either front crawl or back stroke.  You may look a little strange – but your body will feel better after.
  • BIRTH – the best position for SPD for birthing is generally on all fours.  The classic squatting position or semi-reclined position on your back with the knees up in a squat like position, these two can really aggravate the condition.  If aggravate in birth, the SPD can persist for weeks after baby is born.  The all fours birthing position keeps the knees more together and tends to feel the best during birthing for women with SPD.
Finally I truly wish you all the best and if you have any other advice that worked for you, please let me know so I can include it.
Marie
Finally a big big thank you to Nicole from my Prenatal Yoga for volunteering to be the model of this post.  And to Daunine McLauchlin who came to yoga despite her SPD and was brave enough to listen to her body and adapt the class to her needs (which does take some confidence in a group class) and who inspired me to do this post.  Daunine is also a professional photographer which is why the photos are so nice.  Please check out her work here.

If you liked this article you might also like reading these two blog posts.

Baby Led Yoga 

This totally made me smile.  Perhaps this is what our mom and baby yoga classes could be like if I let Markus teach the class for me.  Enjoy!  Keep Reading

Are you ready for baby?

 If you are close to your due date, chances are that someone or perhaps everyone seems to be asking you this question.  But how really does anyone prepare for a new baby?

To me preparing for a new baby is much like getting ready for a trip to a foreign country.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2013 12:46 pm

    Hi Marie,

    I really admire your personal and engaging voice. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing such great advice and stories on your blog for expecting mothers! This article is especially helpful for pregnant women who experience discomfort.

    I’ve taken a look through your website and we think you’ve done a fantastic job in covering topics that our brand’s audience of expecting mothers would be interested in reading. It would be great if you could join our community to feature your blog entries.

    If you would like to learn more about this, please send an email to info at atomicreach.com.

    Sincerely,
    Tina

  2. May 23, 2013 6:45 am

    Has anyone tried these exercises and it worked?

    Tailbone pain during pregnancy is also caused by relaxation of the ligaments in the pelvic floor, which does not necessary include Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction. In this case, using wedged chair cushions and leaning forward during sitting may help.

  3. March 4, 2014 5:33 pm

    Reblogged this on Perennial Doula News and commented:
    A good friend just texted asking what advise I have do deal with pubic joint inflammation known as pubic symphysis diastasis, where the bones of the pubic bone separate and misalign, creating a lot of pain that may increase through pregnancy as the baby grows. The following post at birthbliss.wordpress.com describes tips and yoga exercises to minimize your daily discomfort. If done consistently and carefully, the yoga poses described here will tone the pelvic muscles and uterine ligaments. While pregnancy hormones are acting on the joints and ligaments to loosen and relax the pelvis for birthing (which is a good thing), you can safely engage in toning exercises that will ease the discomforts of pregnancy and help your post pregnancy body resume healthy bone, muscle and organ alignment.

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