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In my first pregnancy I suffered with agonising SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) and found nothing that gave relief. I didn't even know that products like the Serola belt existed. If only someone had told me, I could have saved myself a lot of misery!
As soon as I discovered I was pregnant the second time I took action to minimise my pain for the duration of the pregnancy. I saw a physiotherapist through my employer's occupational health department who assessed me and recommended I buy a Serola belt. Apparently these belts used to be given out by the NHS to pregnant women with SPD, but to save a few pounds they stopped being offered, in favour of cheaper, giant tubigrips which provide far less support. I was dubious about how helpful this belt would be, but decided to fork out the money for it on the off chance that it would help. Anything that could potentially reduce the pain was worth a try!
When it arrived I immediately tried it on and was surprised by the difference it made. As soon as it was tightened I could feel that my pelvis was pulled together and supported. Amazing! It allowed me to do so much more than I could in my first pregnancy, which was all the more important since I now had a 2 year old to run after! It wasn't a miracle cure, I still had pain and still had to take things easy, but the difference was incredible. I'd say it about halved my pain level and also stopped my condition from deteriorating much further.
As a bonus, the Serola belt is really easy to use. It is simply secured with velcro, making it quick to get on and off, while allowing you to get the perfect fit (the belt comes in several sizes and then the velcro adjusts to any length within the range of that belt). The positioning of the belt does mean that it needs to be removed in order to go to the toilet, so it's just as well that it's easy to do (especially for pregnant women)! I also found that if I was going to be sitting down for a long period of a time I needed to either loosen the belt a bit or take it off completely. I rarely took it off as it was helpful for support when getting in and out of a chair.
It's not the most attractive thing in the world - you can see the shape of it through your clothing - but to be honest I didn't care. I was far more concerned with the fact that it was actually working than with how I looked. My outfit of choice when pregnant was leggings with a long baggy top, and in that situation the belt was hardly noticeable.
Sacroiliac (SI) joint problems are one of the biggest joint problems I have, for years now my SI joints have been dysfunctional and due to having Hypermobility Syndrome are moving too much. For me an SI belt is a must and over the years I've tried a few different ones. The first one I tried was the Serola belt. The Serola belt is available in a variety of places online including Amazon and costs £36.50 which sounds like alot but if you get on with a belt it should last a long time so it's not that expensive really.
The Serola belt is available in various sizes, small is up to 34 inches, medium is 34-39 inches, large is 39-46 and extra large is 47-52 inches. I need the small size as my pelvis isn't very wide. To measure yourself for an SI belt you need to place a tape measure around the top of the pelvic bones above the hips.
The Serola belt is grey and made from a really tough canvas material, it's very wide too so if you're like me and not very tall this can be a bit of a problem. The idea is you wrap the belt around your pelvis above the hips and fasten it at the front with velcro then take two elasticated straps from the back of the belt and pull them forwards to fasten them with more velcro and this should compress the SI joints and prevent excessive movement. Sounds fine in theory and years ago when I first bought mine I didn't know any better.
The SI joints should stay stable using the deep stabilisers (amongst other muscles but the belt is there to simulate the deep muscles) so thats the Transversus Abdominals at the front to pull the front of the wings of the pelvis together and the Multifidus at the back to compress the back of the joints. This is where normal SI belts run into problems. Alot of people with SI dysfunction don't have symmetrical problems so on one side it's common to find a lack of Transversus Abs activity and strength and on the other a lack of Multifidus so the straps on a Serola belt doesn't distinguish between the two problems. The placement of the elasticated straps means they only simulate the Transversus Abs and not the Multifidus so if you're like me and have different problems from side to side this belt isn't going to be ideal. Pulling the strap from the back of the pelvis to the front means it closes the joint at the front but a lack of Multifidus activity means the joint is already closed at the front and open at the back so these straps can't help that. However at the time of purchase many years ago I had no idea about all this and assumed just general compression of the entire pelvic ring would suffice.
The Serola belt can be worn directly near the skin or on top of clothes and can be washed by hand and left to dry somewhere flat. It takes a while for it to dry though as it's thick canvas and if you do get on with it and need it all the time you will need two so it doesn't matter when one is drying.
The first time I wore the Serola belt I wasn't keen, it's a very chunky belt and impossible to hide under clothes unless you opt for baggy long tops. I really didn't like the fact it was a struggle to get it under my jeans because of how thick it is and decided there and then to start looking for a thinner option I could hide. The next problem was how wide the belt is, being only 5 foot 4 inches I don't have a huge amount of bone from the crest of the pelvis down to the hips and I found this belt a bit too wide for me and every time I sat down it would rub on my hips and made the skin really sore. Another problem I found was the belt moved alot, any bending or sitting would make it ride up out of place so it needed taking off and putting back on again several times through the day. These problems actually made me buy a different belt within weeks of buying the Serola version and it became my standby belt for when the other one was wet from washing. I didn't find the belt made my SI pain any less either but I think that's because it only simulates the Transversus Abs rather than being more versatile if thats not the issue.
Overall I really didn't like this belt, it was too wide, too thick and chunky, too general in what it set out to achieve and really boardy because it's thick canvas. My joints are always going to need a belt so I need one I'm very comfortable in as I need to wear it so much and this wasn't the one for me. For very occasional use in people with weak Transversus Abs only this might do the job but it's not ideal for most people. A low 1 star rating from me because of all the problems I encountered with it.