3 Poses to Ease Sacroiliac Joint Pain
Article by Lucas Rockwood
Do you suffer with lower back pain, below your waistline, on the backside of your pelvis? Does it also radiate down your leg? Rather than a lumbar spine problem, you might be suffering from sacroiliac joint (SI) pain.
This mostly rigid joint connects your sacrum – the bony plate at the back of your pelvis – with your ilium – the upper portion of your pelvis and hip bones. Problems here account for an estimated 20% of lower back pain.
Let’s take a look at this important area of your body.
Your sacrum is the bony plate at the back of your pelvis. It consists of five fused vertebrae and the sacroiliac joint is where that bony plate meets the elephant ears of your ilium.
This fan-shaped bone is the largest and most prominent bone in your pelvis. It connects to your sacrum on both sides at the top.
The bony plate of your sacrum is stabilized by bone-to-bone connective tissue, aka ligaments. Think of your sacroiliac ligament like a leather belt – it has a little elasticity to help you move, but too much elasticity can cause instability and pain.
Your pelvis is the attachment point between your torso and legs. It connects some of the strongest and largest muscles in your body.
How do SI joint injuries occur?
SI injuries often happen during pregnancy, when the body releases the hormone relaxin. Its purpose is to loosen up soft tissues to make childbirth easier, but it often loosens up the back of your pelvis too, leading to inflammation and pain.
People who’ve had spinal fusion surgery, where two or more vertebrae are fused together are also at risk of SI pain as a lack of movement in the back can often translate to pressure further down at the back of the pelvis.
Other injuries occur from unilateral force – during an accident or when you land forcefully on one leg rather than two, for example, and extra pressure is put on one side of your sacrum.
What happens if I injure my SI joint?
Because your SI joint only has around 3-5 degrees of rotation or movement, it’s useful to think of it like a closed door. Unlike your spine, which can flex, extend and rotate, your SI joint has very little movement. So, when it moves more than it naturally should, this can create problems.
Injury to the joint can result in inflamed and damaged ligaments, muscles, or bony structures, which can cause pain when you’re walking upstairs or downstairs, sitting with one or both legs up, or in certain yoga poses like Warrior pose.
Because, in the majority of cases, the biggest problem is instability, not stiffness, healing often revolves around careful stabilization of this region.
3 of the Best Corrective Lower Back Exercises
Stretching exercises are a really bad idea for your sacrum – rather than loosening up this area, you should focus on stabilizing it. These corrective exercises will help to recreate stability at the back of your pelvis, by focusing on strengthening the muscles around it.
The two key muscles they focus on are your gluteus maximus and your piriformis. Building strength and tension in these muscles will help to make up for the laxity in the ligaments around your sacrum.
Your glute max is the largest muscle in your body. It’s attached to your sacrum, so when it gets stronger it can tighten and stabilize this area. The piriformis attaches onto your femur and your sacrum, so strengthening it also helps to reinforce this area.
Sit, Stand & Thrust
- Sit on the edge of a chair with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Drive the weight into your heels, stand up and thrust your pelvis forward. You should feel your glute max fired up.
- To also work your piriformis, tie an exercise band with a knot and place it around your legs, above your knees.
- Widen your feet to hip-width apart and sit, stand and thrust again.
- Do three sets of 10 every day for a week. After a week you might add some load, with a 5-10lb kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell.
- Sit on the floor and place a tied exercise band above your knees.
- Lie on your side, keeping your feet together, but your knees apart.
- Open and close your knees in a clamshell movement to feel your piriformis contracting.
- Do three sets of 10 on either side every day.
Banded Squat Walk
- Place a tied exercise band above your knees and stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart.
- Hinge at the hips, with your bum down and back, and the fist of your right hand into the palm of your left in front of you.
- Walk to the right with control for a count of three, then back to the left.
- Do five sets each day. If you feel any pain, stick with the first two exercises.
Sacroiliac Joint Exercises & Pain
It’s important to be conservative and gentle when attempting to heal an SI joint injury. So, when attempting these corrective exercises keep the movements very slow and controlled. If you feel pain, stop. Also, remember to avoid any vigorous cycling or running, and leave the yoga lunges and any exercises that use force until you’ve recovered.