SI Joint Pain
Physical Therapy for SI Joint Pain – Information, Exercises, and More
You’ve been living with back pain for far too long.
You’ve heard that your SI joint could be the culprit, so you’re looking for more information about the disorder and what can be done to alleviate your symptoms.
We’ve got your back — literally.
In this guide, we’ll discuss information about the condition, exercises, and more to help you get back to living without SI joint pain.
- What Is the SI Joint?
- What Causes SI Joint Pain?
- SI Joint Pain Symptoms
- SI Joint Pain Treatment
- Non-Surgical SI Joint Pain Treatment
- Surgical SI Joint Pain Treatment
- Does Physical Therapy Work for SI Joint Pain?
- Best SI Joint Pain Exercises
- Hip Abductor Stretches
- Hamstring Stretches
- Back Bridge Stretches
- How In Motion O.C. Can Help With SI Joint Pain
What Is the SI Joint?
The sacroiliac joint (SI joint) is where your spine meets your pelvis. This joint is made up of the sacrum — the bone structure above your tailbone — and your ilium — the top part of your pelvis.
Sacroiliac joints are on both the right and left sides of your lower back. They provide support and stability for your body weight and act as shock absorbers during activities like walking, running, lifting, etc.
For many, the SI joint is the location that causes them the most pain in their lower back.
What Causes SI Joint Pain?
The SI joint causes symptoms in 15-30 percent of people suffering from back pain.
SI joint pain can radiate from your hips and pelvis to your lower back and down your legs.
If the ligaments of the SI joint become too tight or too loose, you may start to feel pain in your lower back, hips, and even your legs.
Other causes of SI joint pain include:
- Arthritis – ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis
- Sacroiliitis or SI joint dysfunction – inflammation of the SI joint
- Pregnancy or childbirth
- Trauma affecting the lower back, hips, or buttocks
- Infection of the sacroiliac joint
- Urinary tract infections
- Endocarditis – Inflammation of the inner layers of the heart
- Abnormal gait
- Previous lumbar spine surgery
SI Joint Pain Symptoms
Every person’s symptoms associated with SI joint pain may differ, especially in the level of pain, but typical symptoms include:
- Sharp pain in the lower back, buttocks, hips, and pelvis or groin
- SI joint pain on just one side of the body
- Increased pain when standing up
- Burning sensation in the pelvis
- Numbness/tingling in the lower back, buttocks, hips, pelvis, or groin
- Pain that radiates down your thighs
If you are experiencing a fever, lower back and buttock pain on one or both sides, deep thigh pain, and difficulty walking, reach out to your physician. An SI joint infection could cause your symptoms and should be taken care of quickly.
It’s also important to be assessed by a medical professional in general. SI joint pain symptoms can be similar to other back injuries. It’s important to get properly diagnosed so you can receive the correct treatment for the root cause of your symptoms.
SI Joint Pain Treatment
Sacroiliac joint pain treatment focuses on alleviating the pain and restoring normal range of motion in the joint.
In most cases, surgery is not necessary to treat SI joint pain, but it will depend on the signs, symptoms, and causes.
Non-Surgical SI Joint Pain Treatment
After an assessment, your physician may recommend the following non-surgical treatments to help alleviate SI joint pain:
Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may be your physician’s first recommendation for mild pain.
Rest: Although long periods of rest are not recommended, as it can make the stiffness worse, resting for one or two days may be appropriate to reduce SI joint pain.
Braces or supports: When SI joint pain is caused by the joint being too loose, your doctor may suggest using a pelvic brace around your waist to stabilize the area.
Physical therapy: To restore maximum strength and function, your physical therapist will help you develop a treatment plan based on your unique needs and symptoms and typical SI joint physical therapy protocol.
Surgical SI Joint Pain Treatment
If conventional treatments aren’t easing your SI joint pain, your physician may recommend surgery.
The most common surgery performed to address SI joint pain is known as a sacroiliac joint fusion.
An SI fusion is a minimally invasive procedure that involves making a small incision and inserting titanium implants across the SI joint.
The purpose of a fusion is to provide stability to the joint and relieve any SI joint pain/symptoms. A surgeon typically performs the procedure in an outpatient setting and it only takes about 45 minutes.
Does Physical Therapy Work for SI Joint Pain?
Physical therapy is one of the best ways to manage pain associated with your SI joint.
Physical therapy for SI joint pain may involve:
- Physical therapy exercises: Physical therapy exercises for SI joint pain focus on strengthening surrounding muscles, improving movement and flexibility, and more.
- Recommendations for braces: Until your strength and flexibility improve with the help of PT exercises, your physical therapist may recommend a sacroiliac belt for joint support.
- Manual therapy: Manual therapy, such as massage therapy, can help reduce inflammation and help correct SI joint dysfunction.
- Education on body mechanics: Your physical therapist can educate you on movements and activities that may be contributing to your SI joint pain. They will teach you how to move your body properly and improve the way you sit and lift/carry objects to avoid SI joint pain.
These treatments can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and restore normal range of motion.
Physical therapy can also help with your recovery post-surgery if you need a sacroiliac joint fusion.
Can Physical Therapy Help Prevent SI Joint Pain?
A huge component of physical therapy for SI joint dysfunction is education. Learning to maintain proper posture and a healthy activity level can help prevent SI joint pain.
Maintaining joint strength and flexibility is crucial to avoiding SI joint pain. Your physical therapist will guide you on strengthening and stretching the right joints and muscles to help you maintain optimal functional performance and avoid SI joint pain in the future.
Best SI Joint Pain Exercises
Easing SI joint pain by doing simple exercises and stretches is possible. Below, we will share some SI joint physical therapy exercises that may be incorporated into your treatment.
Always consult with a Doctor of Physical Therapy before attempting any SI joint physical therapy exercises.
Hip Abductor Stretches
Hip abductor stretches can relieve tension in the SI joint.
Sit with your legs straight and apart, forming a triangle.
Slowly lean toward your toes.
Hold this stretch for seven to ten seconds. Over time, increase your holding time up to thirty seconds.
Sit in a chair with one leg resting on another chair straight in front of your body.
From this position, reach toward your toes to stretch your hamstring muscle.
Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, alternating legs between sets.
Back Bridge Stretches
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and arms against your body with your palms to the floor.
Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips off the ground. The goal is to bring your body into a straight line.
Hold this stretch for five seconds, then slowly lower your body back to the ground.
Repeat this stretch eight to ten times.
How In Motion O.C. Can Help With SI Joint Pain
It’s no surprise that dealing with SI joint pain can be frustrating, even life-altering.
Physical therapy might be the answer to alleviating the pain and returning to a pain-free life.
As the #1 rated physical therapy clinic on Yelp! and Google, In Motion O.C. has helped dozens of people overcome their SI joint pain.
And we’re ready to help you, too.