Today I’m answering a question I received from you about sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction. If you’ve been struggling with this and are bogged down with all of the conflicting information, keep reading because that ends right now.
Recently I invited you all to submit your questions and ask me anything…whether it’s strength gains you’re trying to reach, nagging pain you can’t seem to get rid of, or my take on the latest fitness trends. Monica on Youtube had a great question about SI joint dysfunction. She said:
“I currently have SI joint dysfunction. With me, the right-hand side (glutes & quads) is 60-70% tighter than my left side. I've been watching a TON of videos on it, but there is so much conflicting information. Could you please do a video on SI joint dysfunction? What exercises to do, what not to do, what causes it? But more importantly, how to make it GO AWAY!!”
Monica, I hear you and totally understand the frustration.
First things, first. I always recommend you guys see a specialist to get assessed before doing anything you watch online so you can confirm it actually is SI joint dysfunction, so they can see how you move, talk to you more about what’s going on and determine what the underlying issues are. I do offer virtual assessments or you can find a specialist in your area.
With that being said, I’ll do my best to share what I’ve seen work for my clients.
WHAT IS SACROILIAC (SI) JOINT DYSFUNCTION?
The SI joint, short for sacroiliac, is where the spine and pelvis come together. Dysfunction in this area is demonstrated by the inability for the pelvis and sacrum to move properly.
We tend to think of the pelvis only being able to move in a front to back direction (like what the kids call twerking), however, the pelvis has to be able to move in 3 dimensions: front to back, laterally flexing, and most importantly, rotation. When you lack any of these movements, the SI joint starts to take a beating, as well as the surrounding areas like the hips, glutes, thighs, and lower back.
SI JOINT DYSFUNCTION SYMPTOMS
With SI joint dysfunction, there are a variety of different symptoms you can experience that range from:
Pain in the lower back, glutes, pelvis, groin, hips, and SI joints
Pain when standing up from a sitting position
Radiating pain down the thighs and upper legs
Most people I work with have intense pain right at the SI joint. The pain is typically on one side, and comes and goes throughout the day with no rhyme or reason as to when it flares up.
WHAT CAUSES SI JOINT DYSFUNCTION?
SI joint dysfunction is usually caused by either one of the following issues or a culmination of them:
Lack of pelvis control (the inability to move the pelvis in 3 dimensions).
Poor hip mobility, more specifically, lack of internal or external rotation.
Excessive lumbar extension.
Inability to divorce the hip movement from the pelvis or lower back. Basically the hip lacks movement so the body uses the pelvis or lower back to make up for it.
COMMON CONFUSION AROUND SI JOINT PAIN RELIEF
It might feel a bit confusing when you go to look for solutions online because some people tell you to stretch the lower back and glutes. Others tell you to strengthen the inner and outer thighs. And others give you a combination of the two.
All of these options could give you some temporary relief, but it doesn’t really address the root of the problem at the key areas we discussed: the pelvis, the hip joint, and lumbar extension.
EXERCISES TO AVOID IF YOU HAVE SI JOINT DYSFUNCTION
Before I show you my top 3 exercises you should do for SI joint pain relief, there are a few things I want you to avoid because they put the body in a compromised position just asking for problems to show up. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever do these movements, but I’d recommend reducing the range of motion while you put more focus on things that will help your problem. I know it can be hard to back off on being active but you can’t keep banging your head into the wall causing pain on a regular basis if you want the problem to actually go away.
What to avoid:
High box step-ups: If you have poor hip mobility, the pelvis will hike up towards your ribs to get your front leg into the required hip flexion for the step-up (and we don't want that).
Deep squats: Same concept as above.
Stretching the glutes with a shifted lower back and pelvis: This forces you to crank on your lower back, not your glutes.
Trunk rotation stretch: This is the most recommended stretch, and I would avoid it like the plague until your pelvis moves better.
HOW TO MAKE SI JOINT DYSFUNCTION GO AWAY
So we’ve just established the causes of SI joint dysfunction and what exercises to avoid, and now let’s dive into some exercises that will give you relief.
They’re going to focus on our 3 key areas:
Rotation of the pelvis
Spinal flexion, specifically in the lumbar area
Essentially, we want to get these areas working the way they were meant to. Once you do that, good things will start to happen.
Watch the coaching video above for instruction on how to do these exercises.
You'll want a yoga block or something similar like a pillow, blanket, towels, etc.
A chair you can sit in where your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
A foam roller you can roll between your knees or even a roll of paper towel.
BULLETPROOF YOUR BODY
Get my 3 must-have mobility moves to bulletproof your body in the link below. These are the exercises I use with all of my clients and you can get them completely free.
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ABOUT COACH MATT PIPPIN
Matt is a Strength and Mobility Coach with over 15 years experience in his field. He's coached over a thousand professional, collegiate and everyday athletes with the goal to help them move, feel and perform at their highest level. CLICK HERE to learn more.
NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Level 3: Fascial Stretch Specialist
Level 1: Institute of Motion Health Coach
Certified FRC Mobility Specialist (FRCms)
Level 1 Kinstretch Instructor
Weck Method Qualified