Are you experiencing pain in your lower back and buttocks?
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is quite common nowadays. Especially women experience this kind of sciatic pain during and after pregnancy. But also people who have jobs that require them to sit a lot can get this condition.
Many times, doctors will inject Cortisol into the joint to relieve symptoms. While Cortisol does reduce inflammation, it also damages the joint itself and will lead to degenerative diseases.
Luckily, it is possible to treat SI joint dysfunction at home. I have dealt with this myself for a year and finally beat it after reading dozens of research papers and trying out different exercises and stretches. I hope you will find these tips useful too!
The sacroiliac joint lies below the spine and above the tailbone. It connect the sacrum (triangular bone at the bottom of the spine) with the pelvis.
“Sacroiliac joint” by Mikael Häggström – File:Gray242.png. Licensed under CC0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sacroiliac_joint.svg#/media/File:Sacroiliac_joint.svg
This joint is very small but very strong due to the ligaments around it.
Think of your shoulder joint. The reason why you can move your arm freely in all directions is that the joint itself is not protected by many ligaments.
In contrast, the SI joint is very stiff and hardly moves during daily activities. Its main function is to transmit the force from the upper body to the lower parts of our body and to absorb shock and protect the spine.
However, when the normal movement of this joint is disrupted, the joint becomes inflamed and can irritate the sciatic nerve running directly in front of the joint. This is why patients with SI joint dysfunction experience so much pain in the buttocks and legs.
Blausen.com staff. “Blausen gallery 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine. DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 20018762. – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sacroiliac_Joint.png#/media/File:Sacroiliac_Joint.png
Causes of SI joint Dysfunction
The disruption of normal movement can involve either too much movement which leads to instability – or too little movement (chronic tightness and fixation):
- Hypermobility/ too much movement: Pain in the lower back and lower buttock area
- Hypomobility /fixation: Pain on one side of the lower back/ buttocks radiating all the way down along your leg. It can go down to your ankle and feet or stay above the knees. The pain is very similar to sciatica.
SI joint dysfunction is more common in women. Especially after giving birth, the immense force that is put on this joint can lead to disruption of normal movement and hypermobility. As a matter of fact, the higher levels of Estrogen and Progesterone contribute to hypermobility, as ligaments are not as tight in pregnancy.
Unfortunately, many doctors treat this dysfunction by injections into the joint. Cortisol suppresses inflammation and aids in recovery of the joint. However, cortisol also increases joint degeneration and risk of arthritis, which will inevitably damage your joint and lead to much worse conditions in the future.
How to treat SI joint dysfunction at home
In the early stages of inflammation it is best to rest the joint and wait:
Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation
The RICE method is very commonly used in acute stages of inflammation. Ice will cause vasoconstriction which reduces blood flow to the joint. This will reduce the amount of immune cells coming to the joint and heal inflammation faster. The other two methods are more appropriate for injuries in the legs or arms. Generally speaking, rest for 2 days and apply ice to your joint until it gets numb and you don’t feel pain anymore.
Detect muscle imbalances
Muscle imbalances due to our human anatomy, which is asymmetric in its nature, can lead to unnatural movement of the SI joint as well. If one side of your body is stronger, the body will activate it to a higher extend. Thus, the joint on that side will carry more force than the other and can get inflamed.
-> Related: How to treat muscle imbalances
Release tight muscles with your foam roller
You can actually start foam rolling in the acute phase.
Loosening up the muscles will free the joint and speed up the healing process. Whenever there is an injury in our body, it reacts by tightening up everything around the injury to protect it. Thus, as your SI joint is inflamed, the muscles surrounding it will get very tight to protect it.
We need to loosen up those muscles to let the joint heal by itself. Also, many times the tight muscles compress the sciatic nerve, which is the main cause of the pain you are experiencing.
You can find an excellent lower body foam rolling routine here.
Best stretches for the SI joint
After you have loosened up the muscles surrounding the joint with foam rolling, I would recommend to further stretch them. In the first couple of days, you will repeat this cycle of rolling and stretching a few times during the day, until you don’t feel any tightness or pain.
Here are some of the best stretches I utilized myself and successfully healed my SI joint dysfunction with.
You don’t need a chiropractic adjustment if you do the exercises and stretches mentioned in the article. In fact, you will adjust your joint yourself and might hear a little “click” when doing some of the exercises. This means that the joint is now in its normal position again and you should feel an immediate relieve.
Strengthening the right muscles
After a week, your pain should be lessened and maybe a dull pain can still be present. Now it is time to strengthen the right muscles.
This is crucial as it will prevent the causes of the SI joint dysfunction. If yours was caused by instability/hypermobility, strong muscles will stabilize the joint. If it was caused by too little movement, exercise will increase blood flow and ensure normal movement of the joint.
Thus, you will follow the same workout I posted in my article on how to treat sciatica.
-> Related: How to treat sciatica at home
You workout schedule for sciatic pain-relief
- Stretching for SI joint dysfunction (as explained in the article)
- Foam rolling the lower body
Any time of the day:
5-10 min Cardio warm up (light walking or cycling is appropriate too)
-> Related: Warm up your body
-> Related: The best glute-activation routine
- Leg Side Abduction (turn your toes in: this will prevent activation of the piriformis muscle)
- Side Clam Leg Raise: There are two versions of this exercise. For sciatica, you should do the external rotation and the internal rotation version to strengthen the piriformis (a strong muscle does not get tight!)
- Donkey Kicks bent leg
- Donkey Kicks straight leg
- Glute Bridge hold 40 sec.
- Glute Bridge
- One-legged Glute Bridge
Do all exercises for 40-50 seconds, 10-15 seconds rest, 2-3 times through.
Core and Back:
- Flutter Kicks – 20x
- Seated Row with Bands – 15x
- Pilates Toe Taps – 20x (10 each side)
- Reverse Fly – 15x
- Pilates Hundreds – 50 breath counts
- Reverse Crunches – 20x
- Plank Hold – as long as you can
- Back Bow – 20x
- Seated Row with Bands – 15x
- Reverse Fly – 15x
- Reverse Plank hold – as long as you can
Repeat this circuit 1-2x
Do this workout every day or every other day, but I would recommend to do at least 1 round each day. It does not take long, 20 min max. but it will help you relieve pain and build a stronger body.
Every night before going to bed:
- Foam Rolling
Training Tips for afterwards
You can start using weights again and doing exercises like Squats or Deadlifts when you have established a strong mind-muscle connection with your glutes, core and back muscles. It is crucial that you are able to properly activate those muscles when you are doing heavy compound movements to protect your joint. Once you have had an SI joint dysfunction, the joint will be at risk to get out of alignment again easily. Thus, you need to adjust training to your body’s symptoms. The moment you experience pain again, stop and go back to the workout routine above.
I would also strongly recommend to start incorporating yoga into your routine. It will help loosen up tight muscles and build total body strength and awareness to protect your joints.
If the cause of your SI joint dysfunction was a muscular imbalance, I recommend you start asymmetric training. I explain that in this article. Start using unilateral exercises instead of bilateral exercises until you feel both sides of your body activate properly.
Don’t get discouraged though, I was able to heal myself in 2 months. I am still doing the workout routine above in my routines to keep the right muscles strong and activated.
After a while, you will get stronger and maybe you are lucky and will not experience this again!
Nutrition Tips for healthy joints
While proper training and stretching are most important to heal joint dysfunction, nutrition can help speed up recovery and prevent inflammation.
I started using a collagen supplement and I am still using it to this day. My joints are hypermobile in nature due to scoliosis and I have noticed my ligaments got stronger since using the supplement. You certainly don’t have to use supplements but this is my experience.
Also, I recommend to include antioxidants in your diet, like berries, tomatoes, ginger, onions, garlic, turmeric etc. They will also boost your immune system and prevent you from getting sick.organic protein produce to get the most benefits.
Use Code – HEALTHY to get a 20% discount for the best supplements for health by my partner MyProtein.
I hope these tips will be useful and you will be able to treat your condition. As always, make sure to visit your doctor because there might be a more severe condition causing your SI joint problems. Once you are clear, you can use these tips to heal yourself and prevent future SI joint dysfunction.
If you liked this article, leave me a comment below! Have you used these stretches and found them useful? I love getting feedback from you!