An exploratory analysis of gait biomechanics and muscle activation in pregnant females with high and low scores for low back or pelvic girdle pain during and after pregnancy


      • The pain group had smaller hip contribution to work during second trimester gait.
      • The pain group had greater ankle contribution to work during second trimester gait.
      • Decreased hip utilization early in pregnancy could contribute to disability later.
      • Moments and work were greater during third trimester compared to other time points.
      • Gluteus maximus activation was greater during third trimester compared to second.



      The purpose of this study was to compare gait kinematics, kinetics, and muscle activation between pregnant females with high and low scores for low back and/or pelvic girdle pain during and after pregnancy.


      Twenty participants tested during second trimester, third trimester, and again post-partum. At each session, motion capture, force plates, and surface electromyography data were captured during self-selected velocity over-ground walking. Participants completed the Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale (QBPDS) and were assigned to high (QBPDS ≥15) or low pain groups (QBPDS <15) based on third trimester scores. Two-way mixed model ANOVAs were used to compare high and low pain groups over time.


      Nine participants met the high pain group criteria and 11 were low pain. During second trimester the high pain group compared to the low pain group demonstrated smaller peak hip flexor moments, total hip work, percent hip contribution to work, and larger percent ankle contribution to work. Pregnant females demonstrated greater hip, knee, and ankle moments, ankle work, and gluteus maximus muscle activation third trimester than second trimester.


      Reduced hip and greater ankle contribution to work in the high pain group during second trimester could indicate decreased hip utilization early in pregnancy and may contribute to disability as pregnancy progresses. It is also possible kinetic differences during second trimester reflect an early strategy to reduce pain by avoiding hip joint loading. Increased moments and work during third trimester indicate a clinical imperative to better prepare pregnant females to accommodate increased joint loading and muscular demand.


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