A woman’s body weathers a lot of wear and tear during pregnancy and postpartum delivery. One part of the body in particular that can be hit pretty hard is the hips.
Hip impingement is something that our PM & R (physical medicine and rehabilitation) and orthopedic specialists see frequently among athletes. But another small group of patients suffer from this condition: new moms.
What is hip impingement?
According to board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. John McDonald, hip impingement is “pain deep in the hip joint or groin area that is characterized by a throbbing or pulling sensation.” Dr. McDonald further explains that with hip impingement “there’s an asymmetry in the hip rotation and normal movement is disrupted within the joint as the bones are often misaligned resulting in this unique and sometimes grinding-type pain.”
Hip impingement during pregnancy may also lead to a labral tear of the thin ring of cartilage (labrum) found in the hip socket. This typically happens during labor when the hips are placed in deep flexion and rotated to facilitate the delivery of the baby.
Hip impingement occurs when the socket and the ball of the hip joint come into abnormal contact with each other, and the joint doesn’t function smoothly. While pregnant, this can be caused by pressure of the excess weight a mother is carrying, changes in the alignment of the pelvis, or by hormonal changes affecting ligaments which then allow excessive range of motion in the joint.
Prevention and Treatment for Hip Impingement During Pregnancy
At the first twinge of hip pain, ask your OB/GYN about some safe stretches or exercises you can do to keep the joints flexible. Strengthening the abdominals with gentle core work can also help support the hips and alleviate pain – again checking with your physician first about what exercise activity is safe.
As the baby’s due date nears, make sure your history of hip impingement is noted in your file for the labor and delivery team tending to you.
Hip pain following delivery can be treated with NSAIDS or other anti-inflammatory medications, rest, and physical therapy. For a labral tear or pain that persists beyond six weeks, it’s time to visit with a specialist about other treatment options.