Pregnancy Problems: The Waddle Walk! Why it happens and what to do.
Since birth, your body has been creating movement habits to help you do things better. Just think about all the patterns you mastered in the first year or so of your life... Lifting your head, rolling over, sitting up, using your hands, kicking your feet and walking!
Your body is incredibly smart and intuitive!
Life happens and you continue to refine these movement patterns to make movement easier and accommodate various obstacles that you come up against including discomfort or pain. Your body creates "movement strategies" to help you be more efficient and to avoid discomfort - rarely do we intentionally invite pain to stay with us.
And then you got pregnant!
There are SO many physical changes happening and a myriad of aches and pains that accompany daily movement in pregnancy. Forget prenatal exercise - the most basic everyday movements can become challenging! Getting out of a comfy chair may require a helping hand to haul you up, rolling over in bed is a workout and walking becomes a waddle!
Why we waddle when we walk:
Hormones, the added weight of pregnancy and the (daily!) shift in gravity are the main contributors to the waddle walk - these factors often shift our posture and the balance of muscle work within our bodies. When a set of muscles begin to work harder than they would with balanced muscle use, and they pull on softening joints and that can cause pain! With an effort to avoid hip, low back or pubic bone pain our body takes on the waddle.
The problem with the waddle:
That waddle puts more strain and stress on the very muscles that are part of the issue - which increases the imbalance and will likely result in tighter hips, more backache or more severe pubic symphysis dysfunction. It can even contribute to sciatic nerve pain- literally a pain in the butt! The key is to prepare and prevent if possible, or at least keep things from getting worse.
Here are a few things you can try to help prevent the waddle or improve your stride.
• walk with a sense of pride.
Think of growing a little taller up the back of your spine and through the back of your neck. This lengthening helps engage the multifidi (tiny lacing like spine muscles) which are part of your “inner core.” You can also be conscious of breathing well and even intensionally use your “core breathing” while walking. This takes some concentration and effort and may not be attainable all the time!
•Mind your GaiT
Aim to walk from heel through to your big toe in parallel (toes pointing straight forward) rather than in turnout or shifting the weight side to side. A parallel, heel-toe gait puts equal use into the hip flexors, glutes and the inner and outer thighs. Sharing the work means nothing gets over stressed.
Think of the muscles of your legs like the four legs of a table. They need to be well balanced, everyone doing their job, or the table top - your pelvis, won't sit level. Check out this simple little stride and balance exercise. This exercise will work your core, hips muscles (it shouldn’t be painful or burn) and will give you a nice calf stretch.
• Release Stressed muscles
Spend some time massaging/ releasing/ stretching your calves, hamstrings, and glutes. These muscles typically get very tight to compensate for the weight of the belly growing forward and shifting the centre of gravity. Muscles that are holding on for dear life can’t appropriately contract because they’re already contracted and may keep getting tighter! Try a simple figure - four stretch (standing or seated) or check out this leaning squat and lung to help stretch and release the glutes, hamstrings and pelvic floor, the bonus on this one is it feels great and is a lovely place to labour. To coordinate with the actions that the pelvic floor, do the movement slowly and with an inhale when you bend your knees and an exhale when you straighten your knees,
• Work your butt!
Once released, work your butt - properly! Most of the time we “clench” or squeeze our cheeks together like trying to hold a twoonie between them. Gripping can make your glutes tight but not strong and functional. Consider squeezing your glutes as if you are squeezing two “nerf balls” or like your grabbing your cheeks with your hands. This engagement is more subtle and more effective. Here’s a great example of what this looks like! Simple squats and lunges or bridging (if comfortable) are great ways to work your butt!
• Balance the Hip
In addition to the glute max (largest of your bum muscles), work the other two smaller glutes, which are a little more to the side and up from the bum, and the rest of the hip and side leg muscles. These muscles support your low back and pelvis during movement and are often the muscles that have to overwork when we waddle. To get better coordination and work the side legs- Try this simple exercise series! Balance this work out with some inner thigh work being careful not to cause more discomfort - stop if you feel any pain at the pubic bone area! You can find some inner thigh options here.
Now that you’re walking better, I’m sure you’re looking for more exercises and movement strategies for pregnancy and the immediate postpartum recovery! Don't worry: we've got your back - literally! Check out our other blogs and follow us @ruthruttandoula on Facebook and Instagram for lots of tips and videos!
You can also join one of my classes!
Move well, feel well!
Ruth has enjoyed watching many bodies change, stay functional and become powerful humans. Education is at the centre of her approach, believing that knowledge is power and that informing our minds and bodies will help build an extraordinary life experience. Creative by nature and armed with an excellent knowledge of functional anatomy and physiology of pregnancy & birth, Ruth loves working with all sorts of bellies, babies and bodies!