When it comes to pelvic pain, it's super easy to think that lack of hip flexibility is the culprit.
I was on a Facebook group recently and a pregnant mama asked for help with her SI joint pain. People were throwing out stretching suggestions left and right - try the pigeon, cobbler stretch, do the #4 and stretch your piriformis. Stretch!!!
While it's impossible to know for sure from a Facebook post and 1 photo, I suspect a strength gap was playing a big role and that behind her SI joint pain was an inability to stabilize her pelvis.
Do you have a hip strength gap?
During my 3 Habits That Weaken Your Pelvic Floor webinar this past weekend, I asked participants to stand on one leg.
Simple enough, yes? Just stand on one leg.
Go ahead, you can try it too - on a book, or a yoga block, like the photo or just on the floor.
I'm curious, do you bend one leg in order to stand on the other? Most people do. Maybe you also bend your standing leg to help with balance.
Notice if you feel really wobbly, if your torso is leaning over to one side, if your arms are out to your sides.
Take a break and try your other side. You'll probably notice one side is a little easier than the other.
It's not just what you do, it's how you do what you do.
Specificity is crucial when it comes to really addressing strength and mobility gaps. If you're not getting the results you're looking for, chances are you aren't doing what you think you're doing. I see this over and over again with my clients and students.
Let's dial this in.
This time when you lift your foot off the floor don't bend either knee. Instead, push down through your left foot and your left hip and see if you can float your right foot off the floor without bending your right knee.
This exercise is called the pelvic list.
You'll create a teeter totter of sorts with your pelvis. As you push your left foot into the floor, your left lateral hip muscles, those muscles on the side of your left hip, contract and pull the left side of your pelvis down. In response to that action, the right side of your pelvis elevates, floating your right foot off of the floor.
Except, you might not have the lateral hip strength to do it or you might be recruiting other muscles to help out like using your back muscles to hike your right hip up.
The goal isn't just to get your right foot off the floor. As you saw earlier, bending your right knee is a relatively easy way to do that.
What you're really investigating is whether or not your lateral hip muscles have the strength to do that action. In order to accurately evaluate, and improve, that, you have to be specific with how you do it.
Let's dial it in a bit and investigate further.
Can you float your right leg off of the floor and also:
Keep the outside edge of your left foot straight vs. turned out
Stack your pelvis over your ankle instead of letting it drift forward over your foot
Relax your arms down by your sides
Maintain an upright torso
Relax your quads enough that you can lift and lower your left knee cap
Not so much?
This is a strength gap
If you struggle with this, and most people do, you've identified one of your strength gaps: a muscle or group of muscles that currently lacks sufficient strength to perform its job.
Without the strength to do this, the stability of your pelvis is compromised - hello SI joint pain, hello pubic symphysis pain. It also means that the support of your pelvic organs is compromised along with the strength of your pelvic floor. It's all connected.
Use it or lose it.
When it comes to strength, and mobility, if you don't use it on a day-in-day-out basis, your body won't maintain it. It's a matter of energy conservation, something your body is excellent at. Why waste energy maintaining muscle mass and length that's not being used?
If you have the habit of standing or walking with your feet close together, you aren't using those muscles.
If you have the habit of standing with your pelvis shifted forward over your feet, you aren't using those muscles.
And if your knee caps are up to your eyeballs, you're asking your quads to pick up the slack.
It's these unconscious habits that either support the strength you need or undermine it. Start paying attention to your standing and walking habits and notice what you do day-in-and-day-out without even thinking about it.
When you identify an unsupportive habit, start shifting it.