6 Popular Pain Relieving Moves for a Sore Sacroiliac Joint

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Low Tech Moves for Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Spinal curve.
Spine pain. Genna Naccache/The Image Bank/Getty Images

I know from personal experience how painful and debilitating a sacroiliac joint problem can be.

While it's true that treatment may be your best long term solution, some people, myself included, have gotten relief in a much more low tech way - by gently and skillfully moving the body.  Slide on to see a few of may favorite SI joint maneuvers.

Related:  7 Treatments for Sacroiliac Joint Pain

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Pull one Knee to Your Chest

A woman lies in the supine position and stretches one knee to her chest.
Supine knee to chest stretch. Forgiss

SI Joint Warm Up Move

It's generally best to start with the easiest move.  This is to warm up your tissues and also to check your pain "barometer," or those feelings and sensations that help you put safety limits on what you plan to do for the day.

For sacroiliac pain (as well as many other types of back problems,) lying supine (on your back) tends to provide a lot of support, which in turn, may help release excess tension that contributes to your SI misalignment. In this position, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Gently grasp one knee and bring it towards your chest. You don't have to get your knee all the way to the chest.  Go only as far as you can without pain or a feeling of insecurity.  Hold for a second or two and then set your foot back down on the floor. 

What to Do if One SI Hurts

You will likely find that this move feels okay on one side but painful on the other.  Again, the rule of thumb here is to move only within pain free limits.  So if you have to skip one of the legs, that's fine.

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Pull Both Knees to Your  Chest

Knees to chest may help stretch your low back.
Knees to chest may help stretch your low back.

If you're back is up for it (which in part may be a matter of strong ab muscles,) try the double knees to chest exercise.  

Safety Comes First

Because you're doing this in the hopes of alleviating sacroiliac joint pain, the safest way to get into the position is by bringing one leg up at a time. Bringing one leg down at a time is perhaps even more important for your safety because unless your abs are very strong, you could make your SI problem worse. 

(Note:  Detailed instructions are on the previous slide: The Warm Up Your SI Joint move.)

Pre-Exercise:  Activate Your Deep Core Muscles

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Open Up Your SI Joint

Stretch hip abductors by strengthening hip adductors.
Stretch hip abductors by strengthening hip adductors.

2 Ways to Open Your SI Joint

#1 Adduct the Hip on the Sore Side

Many yoga teachers teach us that a hypermobile SI joint is jammed on one side.  One of the best way to open the area up is with a hip movement called adduction, they say.  Adduction simply means bringing the thigh closer to the mid-line of your body.  You can try that in a standing position by crossing the leg of the painful side in front of your body.

#2 Open Your SI by Resetting the Joint

You can also ignite both adductor muscles to "reset" their tension.  Some people report getting short term relief from this move.  

While in the supine position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, place a soft ball or rolled up pair of socks between your knees. Very gently squeeze for a count of 5 and then slowly release.  Do about 3-5 of these, but let your pain be your guide.  In other words, stop if it hurts.

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Stretch Outer Thigh Muscles

Hip abductor and rotator stretch.
Hip abductor and rotator stretch.

Open the SI with Strategic Stretching

A strategy that's related to adduction (see previous slide) is to stretch your outer hip muscles.  In the adduction strategy, you're using the inner thigh muscles, in other words, contracting them.  Stretching the outer hip muscles may indirectly have the same effect as adduction, plus it can help release chronic tension that may be (at least partially) holding the SI joint out of alignment. 

As with any of these moves, perform your outer hip stretches gingerly.

How to Stretch Your Hip for SI Joint Pain Relief

In the supine position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, place the ankle of one foot on the knee of the other. Wrap your hands under the supporting knee.  Using your abs, gently lift the supporting knee off the floor, going only as high as you can without pain at the SI joint.  (A little stretch type pain at your outer thigh can be a good thing.)  Stay up for just a short time and set the leg down again. Do up to 5 of these.

As with any one legged move when you have SI joint issues, it may be too painful on one side.  Always move in a pain free zone only.

Related: Relieve Low Back Pain with Outer Hip Muscle Stretching

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Twist Your Spine

A woman in the supine position twists her spine by bringing her knees to one side.
Supine spinal twist. cirkoglu

Gentle Twisting - If SI Pain Permits Only

If your pain levels permit, you can move from the supine hooklying position into a gentle spinal twist.  Take both knees a little ways to one side - generally this is away from the painful side - and test to see if you can tolerate it.  Stay only for a few seconds and bring your legs back up.  Repeat on the other side. Move gently and thoughtfully; repeat only to tolerance.

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Quad Stretching

A woman stretches her quadriceps muscles while lying on her side.
Sidelying Quadriceps Stretch. AmeliaFox

Only for Active People with SI Problems

Taking the tension out of your quadriceps muscles may help alleviate some of your SI pain.  In the image above, the model is demonstrating the easiest type of quadriceps stretch, where you lie on one side and grasp your foot, ankle or even your shin behind you, then gently pull it toward you.  If you can't reach, consider using a strap or belt around your foot to extend the reach space.

Keep Your Sacroiliac Joint Safe - A Warning

This position is not for everyone.  If you are not used to exercise and you have SI joint pain, you may want to forego the side lying quad stretch as it can tweak the joint.  For other ideas on how to stretch this muscle group, see 3 Ways to Get a Good Quad Stetch

Are you a visual person with an SI joint problem? Keep up with my sacroiliac joint content on Pinterest.

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