Protecting your pelvis with exercises

Few realize that the pelvis is just as vulnerable during exercise as knees and ankles. Here is a cautionary guide by a physiotherapist which prescribes protective exercises for the pelvis.

At the least, pelvic damage can put you out of action for a while; at worst, it can cause weaknesses that set up recurrent problems in the same area – rather like athletes with tendon trouble. Occasionally, the damage can be bad enough to need major surgery.

The female pelvis consists of a ring of bones linked to the pubis at the front, the hips at the sides and the sacroiliac joints in the lower back. It is shallower and wider than the male pelvis, and because of this, and hormonal changes, more susceptible to injury. The most common problem is that of ligament and muscle damage. Warning signs can be pain in the groin, hip or lower back. Any pain while exercising is a signal to stop, rest and avoid movements that reawaken or aggravate the pain. If the problem persists, seek professionally qualified help through your doctor.

Sometimes, however, there is no warning pain, hence no chance of avoidance. A woman in her fifties who had taken up yoga as a gentle route to fitness, tore several ligaments when performing a forward bend. Able to go only a little way, her teacher sat on her back to encourage her further – as is still, unfortunately, uncommon practice. At that point she felt a sudden tearing pain. But it was too late. The damage was done. Three months complete rest, and a gradual programme of mobilization and remedial exercises over six months encouraged the ligaments to heal – luckily, with none of the stiffness that can accompany healing in less mobile patients who can be left with permanently compromised range of movement.

The moral of this story is to be aware: exercise with, rather than against your body and if you cannot go further in any movement by your own self, do not force it. Unfortunately, many exercises classes still include potentially dangerous exercises such as forward bending and twisting stretches, forced toe touching, splits, and double leg-raising movements done lying on the back. Some also increase the risk of pelvic imbalance by concentrating on some muscle groups at the expense of others, for example lots of hip bending and stomach strengthening exercises done lying on the back, without equal attention to the much less regularly worked back and hip extensor muscles which are exercised lying on the front.

Protective exercises to reduce the risk of pelvic injuries
Pelvis Exercises Tilt the pelvis by gently arching the back, then pull the stomach in so the back flattens, and the pubic lifts towards the navel. This movement can be done at any time sitting, standing or lying down.
Kneel on all fours. Stretch one leg out sideways, with toes on the ground and turn the head to the same side. Now swing the foot backwards keeping the toe close to the ground and turn the head to the other side. Repeat three times on each leg to loosen the hips and lower back. Pelvis Exercises
Pelvis Exercises Lie on the back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. These sit ups are essential as a coordination exercise for the abdominal and back muscles and should be done ten times once or twice a day.

The pelvic – especially the pubic bones are vulnerable too. Stress fractures through excessive repetitive activity are a particular risk in long distance running, when daily mileage training over stresses the pubic bones with the constant repetitive pull of the muscles. Injury can also occur in aerobic classes, if classes are done too frequently. Increasingly, it appears that the amount of running, jumping or skipping is the harmful factor more than incorrect footwear or running style. Avoiding stress fractures depends on building up gradually as in any sporting activity and allowing recovery days between sessions.

The pelvic joints seem particularly vulnerable just before menstruation, at the onset of the menopause and during pregnancy when hormone release has a slackening effect on the ligaments. If you have a tendency of backaches before or during a period, go easy on sports which involve bending and twisting through the hips and lower back, such as tennis, squash and rowing, as these can cause sacro-iliac strain.

The pelvic is held in balance by the abdominal, back and hip muscles. If tight or weak in relation to one another, the pelvic may be more vulnerable to injury. The pelvic will tilt forward, and the lower back be held in an exaggerated arch if the abdominal muscles are weak; if the stomach muscles or hamstrings on the back of the thighs are tight, the pelvic will be tilted backwards, and the lower back unnaturally flattened. Correct posture is an essential starting point for good, safe exercising – standing or sitting symmetrically, not slouched or cross legged or with the weight falling over one hip. Bad posture can make even “safe” exercises stressful.

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