SI Joint Stabilization
Coming from the world of yoga I am all too familiar with complaints of Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain. It often pops up as pain in the low back region. I, myself, have had problems with an all too mobile SI joint. In a community filled with hyper flexible women who are then cued to ‘sink’ into poses and to ‘stretch’ their connective tissue this ligamentous joint becomes a susceptible victim.
My SI joint problems began after my 2nd pregnancy. I was going through yoga teacher training while pregnant with my son, attending classes 5–7 times a week. Being a vinyasa style class (my favorite by the way!), we would often go through long sequences with one leg forward and the other behind. Followed by a cooling off period of longer held, single leg poses such as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (half pigeon pose). The grouping of asymmetrical poses on top of long held asymmetrical poses, on top of my pregnancy hormone induced ligamentous laxity led me straight to an unstable pelvis. However, the yoga community is not alone on this, 80% of the population will have some form of low back pain in their lives (1) and of these it has been found that around 22% of people with low back pain have SI joint pain (2). So let’s talk about the SI joint.
The SI joint is a beautifully complex stabilizing structure. It is here where the vertebral bodies of the spine fuse together to form the sacrum which then attaches to the iliac (aka pelvic) bones through a series of interweaving ligaments. It provides stability and shock absorption for movements of the lower and upper body taking some of the strain off the low back as we move our way through life. As this joint is held together by very strong ligaments, mobility here is limited, however your SI joint should move, at least a little. Problems arise as these ligaments either become lax, yielding too much movement, or the joints themselves become stuck, yielding too little movement. SI joint hypermobility, or laxity in these ligaments is often found in women, especially in the yoga community where hypermobility is frequently seen as a positive. To compensate for a hypermobile pelvis adding strengthening to your routine can heed amazing results.
To determine whether your low back pain is associated with your SI joint a trip to your favorite Physical Therapist or Chiropractor is a must! However if you already know this to be the case, or just want to play around with some movements, here are a few of my favorite exercises to re-stabilize a wiggly SI joint (this is me being technical). ;)
Butterfly Bridge Variation
I like this variation on bridge as it brings the hamstrings out of the equation a bit. As at least one hypothesis(3) on SI joint instability has the hamstrings compensating for the glutes I feel this is a way to train the glutes without those pesky hamstrings taking over all the work. :)
Weighted Deep Squat
I know ‘weighted’ can be a scary word. I say weighted and most people think of something like this:
BUT fret not young padawan! If this is not your scene no worries. The weight itself does not need to be high. The main focus is going to be on finding good form first and making sure your glutes are doing the work. Squeezing the glutes at the top and at the bottom of the squat, helps to encourage the glutes to do the heavy lifting. I suggest starting unweighted to get the form down and then adding a light kettlebell (or stack of books, or jug of water….) to begin with and increasing the weight as you see fit. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the squat resisting the butt wink at the bottom.
Strengthen your inner thighs to balance the system. Balance is key when it comes to stability in the body and our inner thighs, or adductors, are often overlooked. With this exercise you want to start small, taking the feet about hips width apart and then pulling them back together. As you gain strength you can begin to widen the legs. Be careful of placing all your weight in your hands, make sure your legs are doing the heavy lifting.
(I do toe/heel a little on the way out in this video due to the bumps in the floor, you want to avoid that and try to make it a nice and smooth movement.)
As always we are not working into pain here! If any of the movements are painful STOP and go see your PT or Chiropractor. For my class schedule or to book a session you can find me at kmmove.com. Happy moving!
- Kirkaldy-Willis WH, Bernard TN Jr. Making a specific diagnosis. In: Managing Low Back Pain. 4th ed. Philadelphia (PA): Churchill Livingstone; 1999. p. 206–26.
- Hossain MNokes L. A model of dynamic sacro–iliac joint instability from malrecruitment of gluteus maximus and biceps femoris muscles resulting in low back pain. Medical Hypotheses. 2005;65(2):278–281. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2005.02.035.