What happens when an SI joint gets stuck?

If you have SIJ dysfunction, this is a really important concept for you to understand.

There are different types of issues that can affect the SI joint, but this was the main problem for me, during the entire five years I’ve struggled with this problem.


As I’ve described elsewhere, your SI joint is made up by the meeting of the sacrum and the two ilia, or hip bones, on either side.250px-sacroiliac_joint-svgWhen one of your SI joints get stuck, what happens is that one of your hip bones has rotated backwards and become wedged against the sacrum.  (The scientific way to say is that the ilium has rotated posteriorly).  Basically, it gets stuck in such a way that it can’t get back out on its own (not without some help, anyway).


The reason this problem is so confusing, and under-recognized by medical professionals, is that the hip bone doesn’t actually rotate very far at all.  We are only talking about a couple of millimeters.

If you were to put someone with a “stuck” SI joint in an x-ray or an MRI machine, they wouldn’t look abnormal.  That is why SI joint dysfunction is so hard to diagnose: the joint becomes jammed within what would appear, to most observers, to be its normal range of motion.

But that joint is supposed to be able to move.  And, like anything in the body, when you don’t let something do what it is meant to do, that causes problems.

Even though the SI joint is not intended to have a lot of motion, those few millimeters of motions serve a lot of important functions in terms of our ability to move overall.

Having healthy, functional SI joints allows us to:

A) Move our legs through their full range of motion as we walk

B) Absorb some of the force that comes from each leg hitting the ground as we take steps.

Once you deprive the SI joint of its full range of motion, you impede these functions.

When one of my SI joints would become stuck, I wouldn’t really be able to lift the leg in that side.  It was really an odd, confusing sensation.  I’d have this dull ache in my lower back, and then I’d notice I wouldn’t be able to lift one of my legs.  At first, it didn’t even seem like the two things were even connected.

But again, due to the way our pelvis functions as a whole, you need motion at the SI joint in order to move your leg normally.

If my SI joint was stuck, I’d still be able to move my leg a little bit– it kind of depended on how badly stuck the joint had become.  Sometimes it was way more more “stuck” than others– it all depended on how far back the ilium had rotated.

When the joint was only a little bit stuck, I’d still be able to walk relatively normally on flat ground.  I’d really only encounter a problem when it came time to trying to walk up a hill or up stairs, because that’s when I needed to be able to raise my legs more in order to take a step.

However, when it was really jammed, even normal walking was difficult.  Every step hurt, and you could tell from a mile away that I was a person with an injury.   People would ask me what was wrong, expecting me to say something about my ankle, or my knee… and I’d always feel so awkward when I had to explain to them that um, actually, the problem was in my low back.

Once my that SI joint became stuck, there was really nothing I could do on my own, as an untrained person, to fix it.

Luckily, there are ways to “unstick” an SI joint.  Basically, what you have to do is cause that ilium (hip bone) that has rotated too far backwards to go forward again.  (It is rotated too far posteriorly, so it needs to rotate anteriorly).

How do you “unstick” the SI joint?

For the first few years, I was totally dependent on chiropractic adjustments, and found myself having to go two to times a week.  It was honestly a very miserable and dark time.

Ultimately I found that the chiropractic adjustments were causing too many side effects and actually perpetuating the problem, even though they helped in the short term.

What really became the cure for me was learning how to adjust my SI joints myself, using something called the Muscle Energy Technique.

I had to have a physical therapist teach me, but once I had learned, I was able to use very precise, gentle muscle contractions to re-align my own SI joints.  These self-adjustments were much more gentle than the chiropractic ones, and that’s the point at which I really started to get better.

I’m probably going to jinx myself as I write this, but as of right now, it has been eight months since the last time my SI joints rotated out of place and I needed to adjust them.

Because of what I’ve been through, I feel very passionately about educating others with this condition, so they don’t waste years dealing with something that does have answers, like I did.

I’m going to keep writing and creating resources based on my experiences, and I hope you will stay tuned!

Update: check out this related post I just wrote: Why do some people’s SI joints get stuck, when others’ don’t?




16 thoughts on “What happens when an SI joint gets stuck?

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