One of the most common reasons people have low back pain is misalignment and inflammation in the sacroiliac (SI) joint. Below, you’ll learn SI joint pain exercises to help reduce pain, discomfort and misalignment in your pelvis.
Written by Coach Todd
Got low back or hip discomfort? Yikes… what a pain.
There are many reasons people over 50 suffer from hip or back pain. One of the most common is a misbehaving SI joint. Bad SI Joint… Bad!
The SI joint is the part of your low back where your sacrum (lowest part of your spine) connects to your pelvis. Not following me? I’ll show you a picture in a jiffy.
In this article, I’ll teach you some of the top SI joint exercises that can get you squatting safely in the vegetable garden faster than you can say Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Da. Hold on. It’s almost winter. Ok, forget the garden for now.
I’ll have you climbing those stairs for that Thanksgiving party to show off your top-notch canning skills… without a wince of hip or low back pain. Yep, that’s better.
Ok, close your eyes now.
Imagine you are in your basement canning those prized stewed tomatoes. You’re thinking about the glowing compliments you’ll be receiving from family members at your upcoming extravaganza… or maybe you’re just prepping for the upcoming apocalypse. Hey, after this crazy 2020, anything is possible, right?
Well, it doesn’t matter because all of a sudden, an invisible knife appears out of nowhere and stabs you in the hip. Owwie!!
But that’s not all. This pain thrives on taking over like an irritating English Ivy in a beautiful tulip garden. It never seems to go away. It travels down your leg while your eyes slowly fill with tears. “What did I do to deserve this pain?”
Well, it might just be that naughty SI joint. But before we teach it a lesson on how to behave at the dinner table, let’s really be sure it was him.
How Do I Know If My Pain Is From The SI Joint?
Here are 3 quick tests you can do from home to test your pelvis alignment. It’s not going to replace your visit to Dr. Dan, your local neighborhood PT, but it should get you 80% of the way there.
Is your pelvis rotated forward?
Stand with your feet shoulder-width and parallel. Make sure your weight is even on both feet.
Put your hands on your hips (the top part of your pelvis is called your Illiac crest)
Dig in so you are sure you are on your pelvis bone and not your love handle.
Notice your hands. Are they slanted downward?
Is one side of your pelvis higher than the other?
Follow the same steps as above but notice if one hand is higher than the other. Is one side raised?
Does it hurt to stand on one leg?
Stand on one leg (make sure to hold onto the back of a chair if you have a poor balance).
Your SI Joint is an important stabilizer. When you stand on one leg, it forces the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to tighten up to prevent you from falling. Does your low back/hip hurt when you stand on one leg?
2 Bonus SI Joint Tests:
- Does it hurt in your hip or low back when you go downstairs?
- Does it hurt in your hip or low back when you bend forward?
Ok, ok. I’m sorry for all the poking and prodding. All done with the testing. Phew!
If you answered yes to all of the tests, you may likely have an SI joint issue.
If you answered yes to just one of them, your pain could be sciatica or simple low back tension or weakness.
Still not sure? Here’s the good news. The SI joint exercises I’m about to teach you can help with SI joint pain, sciatica, stenosis, and low back or hip tension. Score 1 for gentle, therapeutic exercise!
Causes of SI Joint Dysfunction
Ready for some exercises? Hold on, partner. If you don’t study history, you will be doomed to repeat it. Put another way, if you don’t know why your SI Joint problem started, you may suffer the same fate in the future.
Misalignment is one of the root causes of SI problems. When that pelvis gets out of whack, it puts unnecessary strain and pressure on the joint.
The below SI joint exercises can help!
Arthritis is another culprit. Inflammation in your SI joint can cause tremendous pain. But thankfully, we hold some powerful kryptonite that punches this enemy in the face. Yes, the below SI joint exercises can help!
Even poor body awareness, like sitting in a way that puts strain on your low back can cause pain.
And as you might have guessed…. The below SI joint exercises can help! Are you seeing a trend yet? Score 2 for therapeutic exercise!
Exercises That Aggravate SI Joint Pain
My dad always used to tell me, “Knowing is half the battle.” Wait. Maybe that was G.I. Joe. I can’t remember now. Regardless, knowing what aggravates your SI joint pain will help you avoid making things worse.
Single-leg lower-body moves like lunges, step-ups, or step-downs can place your pelvis in a less than stable position. It’s good to avoid these when rehabbing.
I’m not saying you can’t walk up the stairs to pull out that old photo album, just be aware of your hips. In general, try to tighten the muscles around your hip with each step, which will create more strength and stability.
Other exercises to avoid are high-impact moves. This might be obvious but things like running and jumping are a no-no. Stair-masters and ellipticals should also have warning tape around them. Best to avoid them.
Will My SI Joint Pain Ever Go Away?
Most likely, SI joint pain will not “just go away” on its own. The posture issues and uneven distribution of weight should be addressed first. Once addressed, there are specific activities that may create natural SI joint pain relief while strengthening your hips.
How to Reset Your SI Joint at Home
Before you can strengthen your pelvis and improve your posture, it’s a good idea to “reset” your SI joint. Simply follow these 3-steps to re-aligning your SI joint:
SI Joint Release
This movement has the same effect as a foam roller or message but in a concentrated and focused area. Think of it as an SI joint pain relief massage.
Lie on your back with a lacrosse ball, baseball, or tennis ball in your hand. Bend both knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Place the ball under your back, in the place you feel the most tension.
Before placing your full weight on the ball, take a deep inhale to fill your belly and on the exhale begin to sink into the ball. If necessary, make tiny circles around the affected area to help release more pressure.
SI Joint Opener
Now that you’ve released the tension in your lower back, it’s time to increase your mobility in that area. This stretch will help to increase mobility in the lower back and hips as well as relieving any additional pain.
From the lying position you were previously in, remove the ball and straighten your legs.
Lead with the leg on your painful side and gently twist toward your pain-free side. You will end up on your side with your shoulders stacked towards the ceiling and your top leg resting slightly forward of the bottom leg. You will feel an opening in your lower back and should be able to comfortably stay in this position. If you can’t, you twisted too far.
Hold this position for 30 seconds, relax, and repeat 2 more times.
Healthy joints should have a little bit of space and fluid between them. However, due to injury or joint dysfunction, your joints can become compressed and painful. The point of traction is to re-create space in a joint that has become compressed.
Stand on a step, holding the railing for support. Stand as close as you can to the edge of the step, allowing your injured leg to dangle off.
Let your body relax allowing gravity to make adjustments for about 10 seconds. To increase the effect of gravity, add a 1-3 pound ankle weight to your dangling foot.
SI Joint Pain Exercises to Stabilize the Pelvis
While the above adjustments help to relieve pain temporarily, the real benefits come through prevention. Stronger muscles and proper movement patterns are the keys to prevent future low back and SI joint pain. Below are the 3 fantastic exercises for SI joint pain:
Inner Hip Strengthener
The adductors commonly referred to as the groin muscles, work to bring your legs together. Weak adductors can often lead to compensation and excess stress on the hip flexors and glutes. Strengthen them through the Supine Thigh Squeeze:
While lying on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, place a ball or rolled towel between your legs. Gently squeeze the ball or towel for 5 seconds before relaxing.
Repeat for a total of 10 times.
Outer Hip Strengthener
The abductors, located on the outside of the thigh, function to lift the leg outward. They help to provide stability during all lateral movements and turns made throughout the day. In order to strengthen the abductions, perform an Isometric Abduction after working your adductors.
In the same starting position as the Supine Thigh Squeeze, remove the ball or towel from your legs.
Next, wrap a towel around the outside of your thighs — the tighter the wrap the more resistance you will have. With both legs, press outwards against the towel for 5 seconds before relaxing.
Repeat for a total of 10 times.
The glutes, or butt muscles, act to extend the hip. This means the glutes are involved in standing, walking, stepping up, lunging, and more. Underactive glutes cause dysfunction in both the hips and the low back. So, it’s important to strengthen them with a Bridge Ball Squeeze.
This movement is simply an expansion of the Supine Thigh Squeeze. Squeeze the ball or towel between your legs for 5 seconds, only before you start counting, drive your heels into the ground and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Hold this position for the allotted time and then relax.
Repeat 10 total times.
By following these exercises daily, you will not only re-adjust your SI Joint but also prevent future low back pain. As pain decreases, lower the frequency to 3 times per week for the stability exercises above. However, consistency is key to complete SI joint pain relief. So stay consistent with your exercises!
To your health!
P.S. Did you read this far? Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to meet you in the comments section. Please share your thoughts or questions below. 🙂